A staple of mystery novels, the red herring is a clue that misleads or diverts attention away from the actual issue. For example, in Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the fractious relationship between the de- ceased's widower and the deceased's maid is meant to distract the reader from discovering that the two are not enemies, but lovers who have conspired to poison the deceased.
Ralph Richard Banks's Is Marriage for White People? is worlds away from Agatha Christie's novels. Decidedly a work of nonfiction, Banks's book considers the plight of middle-class African Americans who, according to statistics, are the least likely of any demographic group to get and stay married. Despite these obvious differences, Is Marriage for White People? shares some important commonalities with Agatha Christie's mysteries. Banks seeks to solve a mystery, but red herrings draw attention away from the true issue that should be the subject of Banks's concern.