Mystery Genre

The mystery genre is one of the most popular genres of fiction next to romance. A genre mystery usually focuses on a crime, most often murder. This crime must be introduced early in the novel. The main character has to solve the crime by the end of the story.

A good mystery is like a puzzle. The reader expects to try to solve the mystery alongside the main character. Many times there are false clues scattered throughout the pages. But the puzzle must solved by the main character by the end of the book.

A mystery varies in length between 75,000 and 100,000 words. Cozy mysteries are usually a little shorter.

Mysteries have a number of subcategories including the following:

Whodunit: This was the first mystery sub-genre. The story focuses on a detective who works to discover hidden clues and solve the crime, usually murder. Whodunits are written in one point of view, usually the  main character and almost always in first person. Famous whodunit authors include Nicholas Blake, Simon Brett, and Lawrence Block.

Amateur Detective: In this sub-genre, the main character is not a police detective but is very invested in solving the crime. Often the protagonist is related to or friends with the victim. Famous Amateur Detective authors include Agatha Christie, Peter S. Fischer, Ellery Queen, and E.C. Bentley.

Cozy Mystery: The Cozy Mystery sub-genre is similar to the Amateur Detective Mystery. In a Cozy Mystery the amateur detective who is usually a women, although in one series it was a cat, who lives in a small town or village where she knows everyone. All the suspects also know everyone. The main character is a likable, nosy, and trustworthy person who people feel comfortable revealing their secrets to. Usually the protagonist knows somebody in the police department who helps her gain the information she needs. Cozies never reveal gory or violent details, and sex is always behind closed doors. Because of that, this is the most common Christian Mystery. Murder She Wrote is a TV show that is catagorized as a Cozy Mystery. AK Arenz is a popular Christian Cozy Mystery author. Some other famous Cozy Mystery authors are Susan Dunlap and Ellen Crosby.

Private Detective: In these novels, the victim seeks the help of a private eye. Crimes are more violent in these novels, and there are usually dark themes involved. Some Private Detective authors are Sue Grafton and Lawrence Sanders. and Arthur Conon Doyle. John Robinson has written some Christian Novels in this genre. You can read about him here, and his books here, here, and here.

Medical Mystery: In this sub-genre, the crime usually takes place in a hospital or medical setting, and the crime usually involves medical personnel who commit the crimes. Most writers in this genre have a medical background. Some famous Medical Mystery writers are Robin Cook and Patricia Cornwell.

Courtroom Drama: For this sub-genre, think Perry Mason. The protagonist is an attorney, usually a defense attorney representing a client he or she believes is innocent. The lawyer solves the crime to win the case. Famous Courtroom Drama authors are John Grisham and Richard North Patterson.

Suspense/Thriller: Although the Suspense/Thriller is a genre of its own, it can also be a sub-genre of Mystery. It combines psychological motives and monstrous crimes. The protagonist is a good at heart person who faces a formidable adversary and must call on everything within him to face this antagonist. This is a classic good versus evil tale with a mystery to be solved. Some famous Suspense/Thriller authors are Dean Koontz, Brandilyn Collins, John Saul, and Michael Connelly.

Technical Thriller: The crime and mystery in this sub-genre revolves around a technical setting. It will always expose threats involving technology. Some Technical Thriller authors are Tom Clancy, Stephen Coonts, Dan Brown, and Larry Bond.

This entry was posted in Genres, Sharpening Our Writing and tagged , , , by Tamera Kraft. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tamera Kraft

Tamera Kraft has been a children’s pastor for over 20 years. She is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She is also a writer and has curriculum published including Kid Konnection 5: Kids Entering the Presence of God published by Pathway Press. She is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.

2 thoughts on “Mystery Genre

  1. Always my favorite genre, so thanks for the clarification of the sub-genres. 🙂 On a side note, the tech-thriller’s are usually quite a bit longer than 100K–my guess is that most push the 150K – 200K, depending on author.

    Another good medical mystery writer is Kathy Reichs, whose book series featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan has resulted in a spin-off TV series, ‘Bones’. Her books are far less gory, in my opinion, than Patricia Cornwell’s.

    Again, thanks! 🙂

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