Mark Sanderson with advice from some of the biggest names in crime fiction wrote an excellent article on How to Write Crime Fiction in The Sunday Telegraph this week.
The eight key points to improving your chances of getting into print were in brief:
1]"Have something you want to say."
2]" I think that a crime novel-like any story succeeds or fails on the basis of character".
3] A corkscrew plot is not essential. "I've become increasingly convinced that genuine suspense is not created by cliffhangers and twists but by creating characters that the reader cares about."
4] "Engage the reader throughout, astonish them at the end," and "People don't read books to get to the middle:they read books to get to the end."
5] Sheer hard work.
6] Supreme organizational skills. "A crime novel is like a house of cards: make a last -minute alteration, move one thing, and the whole edifice can come tumbling down."
7] Foresight. "Don't give your readers what they enjoyed last year; give them what they are going to enjoy next year."
If I didn't have the article in full in front of me [unfortunately there does not seem to be a link to the article online] I would never had been able to guess the quotations authors, but I think there is an enormous amount of good sense in what they have said, especially the need for luck, the quality Napoleon most wanted in his generals.
But although I think interesting characters are vital to any good book, the plot, and setting should be equally as important.
When best selling authors start to use flimsy plots as merely a stage for their characters, who have become more important than the story, they lose their discerning readers.