Confused about all the different genres of mystery and suspense novels available?
I used to be too (especially those ‘hard-boiled’ mysteries? Are those mysteries about eggs? Gross. Seriously, it took me a long to figure these out).
Here’s a list of definitions as well as some examples of authors and book series that fall under the different genres.
Many of the genres overlap one another. For example, some mysteries feature amateur sleuths, women detectives and may also fall under the cozy mystery definition.
General The general mysteries are often written by authors who write good mysteries without sticking to a specific or single genre. Mary Higgins Clark, James Patterson, and Dan Brown and are writers who often write in the mystery/crime/suspense genre that aren’t specifically a police procedural or amateur detective.
Historical Mysteries As the name suggests, historical mysteries are set in a specific time period. Often an author will write several mysteries in a series set in an era. The popular children’s mystery series, The Boxcar Children, were mystery books set in
Hard Boiled Mysteries I’ve read mysteries all my life but wasn’t familiar with the term “hard-boiled” mystery until recently. Unlike the cozy mystery which typically stays away from graphic sex and violence, the hard-boiled mystery is characterized by its gritty scenes, yet the grit is set up to show the intensity of the bad guys the good guy (often a tough-talking detective or PI) is up against.
There aren’t going to be a lot of feel-good scenes talking about the décor or the food spread in this genre! Instead, these mysteries are fast-paced thrillers. The genre came about in the 1920’s after some authors began to write fast-paced, detective stories after crime fiction that was being published. You can find out more about the history of Hard Boiled Mysteries on this blog post.
International Mystery and Crime These books do just what they say, feature mystery stories around the world. The main characters chase bad guys (or are trying to escape from the bad guys) in various hot spots around the world.
British Detective Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and Lord Peter Whimsey are among the many British detectives that have untangled the mysterious and puzzling stories for decades.
In these books, the detectives are…British (you probably guessed that!) solving mysteries in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the world.
Police Procedural In this genre, the protagonists are trained detectives and/or part of the police force. Authors such as James Patterson, Michael Connoly, Elizabeth George and J.D. Robb are among some of the most read police procedural mystery series which focus on the challenging, chilling and suspenseful stories of solving a crime and restoring law and order to an area.
Cozy Mysteries The cozy mystery is more of a light-hearted mystery that is fun, smart and focuses on a quick moving storyline with likeable, if not quirky, characters, an intriguing storyline and lots of twists and turns! Traditionally, cozy mysteries are light on gore, profanity and sensual scenes. Happy endings are a must. Jessica Fletcher, of Murder She Wrote, is a classic cozy detective story. The endearing former English teacher turned mystery novelist gets involved in all sorts of trouble not only in her town but wherever she goes!
Nancy Drew is an example of a mystery series that is both cozy and amateur sleuth. Most of the time cozy mysteries feature women amateur sleuths.
Amateur Sleuth The amateur sleuth is the reluctant detective, the girl next door who has little or no formal training or a background in criminal justice or any part of the law or police system. The allure of this genre is that anyone can solve a mystery. Nancy Drew is one of the most loved amateur sleuths, a likeable young woman who has a reputation for solving mysteries over and over again.
Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series is a classic example of the amateur sleuth. No one takers Miss Marple very seriously (at first) but Miss Marple’s observant eye and understanding of human behaviour help her figure out the oddest of situations.
Notice how the amateur detective always has to have connections to the medical or law enforcement world since they themselves are not able to execute the law themselves. They often have best friends or fathers or other friends/family who are lawyers, police chiefs, detectives, lawyers, etc.
Medical Mysteries There are a number of different authors who write primarily in the medical mystery space. Their mysteries may include theft, murder or other dastardly crimes, but always in the middle of a larger medical plot or problem. Robin Cooke is one of the most well known medical mystery writers. As a doctor, he has the background to write with an expertise and credibility that makes for believable medical mysteries.
What’s your favorite mystery?