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Defining Genre

Mysteries engage the reader in solving a puzzle (sometimes a crime) where as thrillers excite the reader to experience the thrill of the chase.  Mysteries are often more tranquil in both setting and pace, allowing the reader to "work alongside" the investigator in examining the clues.  Often referred to as whodunits, the primary problem is discovering the identity of the culprit.  On the other hand, in thrillers, the perpetrator is often known and the book centers more around how the suspect will be caught and whether they will commit additional offenses.  

Mystery books can be categorized into a number of sub-genre. The cozy mystery is a puzzle or mystery presented, minus the blood.  A mystery is presented, minus the blood.

  • The story is presented in a series of reveals.
  • Tone is light and sometimes humorous.
  • The murder is more "civilized" (poisoning, falls, etc.).
  • The victim is rarely important beyond that the puzzle of their death must be solved.  
  • Solutions are arrived at through reasoning and common sense. 

Popular Cozy mysteries include:

  • Flavia de Luce Series by Alan Bradley
  • Miss Marple novels by Agatha Christie
  • No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Mickey Bolitar novels by Harlan Coben

 

 

Mystery books can also be categorized by the investigative style:

The Amateur Sleuth In these novels, the person solving the crime is not a professional crime investigator.  Sometimes a family member, or just a nosy kid (think Scooby Doo), the protagonist works to solve a crime alongside the police, or in a case where the police have failed.  Falvia de Luce, in Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie straddles the cozy and amateur sub-genre, as do the iconic series Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.
Private Eye This is an American icon, originally published in serial magazines during the 1930s and 1940s.  The detective in these stories have a strong code of honor.  Kinsey Malone is a private investigator featured Sue Grafton's Alphabet series (A is for Alibi, etc.)
Hard-Boiled Detective In these novels, the PIs struggle with there own demons (alcoholism, etc.) and their methods are not always squeeky clean.  Walter Mosely introduced us to P.I. Joe King, an ex-cop and ex-convict.
Noir Noir mysteries are darker and grittier in mood and setting that traditional PI stories.  Brutality includes graphic descriptions and the cops aren't always the protagonist. The most famous Noir detective is Sam Spade, created by Dashiell Hammett.
Police Procedural These mysteries focus around an group of professionals -- the police department, a forensics lab, etc. -- solving a crime in a step-by-step fashion.  Kathy Reichs' series featuring anthropologist Temperance Brennan is a great example.
Sherlockian

The investigator, Sherlock Holmes, is so iconic, there is a whole genre of works that are based on or connected to his character, originally created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  In our collection you'll find

 

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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