Categories of Mysteries

Manuscript Preparation
The Structure of the Novel
Plotting the Mystery Novel
Categories of Mysteries
Romance Novels
Category Romance
Story Checklist
Glossary of Poetry Terms
Critiquing Poetry
Poetry Markets (UK)
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1. The Straight Mystery - a character driven story in which the action just happens to center around a crime, often a murder. Excellent examples include the works of Georges Simenon, creator of the French detective, Inspector Jules Maigret.

2. The Puzzle Mystery - the classic detective story in which a problem is posed and the writer toys with the reader, in a sort of cat and mouse game. Matching wits with clever detectives, makes these mysteries addictive to loyal readers. Examples include the stories of Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen, two of the most prolific and popular mystery writers of all time.

3. The Hard-boiled Mystery - an adventure story which may be a puzzle or whodunit, but is primarily focused on the physical exploits of a protagonist, usually a private detective, who approaches super-hero status. Among the best examples are those of John D. McDonald and Mickey Spillane.

4. The Novel of Pursuit - a story which often involves espionage or other action which will cause the reader to ask not who or how, but what will happen next? Finding out how the protagonist will get of of the situation is the essence of this kind of story. Action and terror, and frequently technology and the methods of pursuit, entrapment or capture are more important than the internal motivations and psychology of the characters. These stories are plot-driven, rather than character-driven. Examples include Geoffrey Household and Eric Ambler. Sub-catagories of the Novel of Pursuit include:

a. The Spy Novel - a story in which a agent is pitted against his opposite number, or even his superiors within his spy organization. Cold war themes are easily adapted to this sup-catagory. The best examples are the works of Ian Fleming and John Le Carré.

b. The Man-on-the-Run Mystery - a mystery story revolving around a protagonist in fleeing from the forces of evil. These stories tend to be international in scope, dealing with ruthless regimes and terror. One good example would be Alistair Maclean.

c. The Metaphysical Mystery - Dark stories of a gothic or occult nature, inv.kirjasto.sci.fi/maclean.htm”>Alistair Maclean. olving supernatural elements, such as demonic possession, black masses, voodoo, ghosts and other facets of the para-normal. The modern master of this sub-catagory is Stephen King.

d. The Doomsday Mystery - a story in which the threat is global and the means are nucelar distruction, chemical warfare or some sort of catistrophic plague. Several of the James Bond stories by Ian Fleming fit this sub-catagory.

5. The Whodunit - a character-driven story in which the solution of a crime should come as a surprise to the reader, but in which the personality, actions and character of the sleuth are featured more than the revelation of the deductive process (See puzzle mystery). Examples include the stories of Tony Hillerman and Dick Francis. Sub-catagories of the classic whodunit include:

a. The Caper Mystery is a mystery in which the reader is shown the perpetrator and is privy to the step-by-step planning for the execution of the crime. An example would be Topkapi by Eric Ambler.

b. The Cozy Mystery - a story may take place in New England or a rural English setting. An amateur sleuth solves a mystery. The crime, although invariably fatal, is not graphic or violent. The characters tend to dress for dinner and sip tea. The Agatha Christie Miss Marple books are excellent examples of this sub-catgory.

c. The Romantic Suspence Mystery - also known as the “Woman in Jeopardy Mystery” is basically a romantic tale in which the relationship between the heroine and her beloved is the focus of the story. Examples are almost too abundant to mention, but the works of Mary Higgins Clark are a good starting place.

d. The Period Mystery - a classic whodunit in which the action takes place in the past. Social and political themes as well as the dress and manners of the period are featured and are usually revelant to the solution of the crime. Some of the most endearing are those of the Regency Period and American Civil War era, but they may take place in any historical period. Barbara Michaels (a/k/a Barbara Mertz & Elizabeth Peters) is a good example.

e. The Western Mystery - a mystery story, of any catagory or sub-type, which has a western setting and in which the values and customs of the American West contribute to the action and solution of the mystery. Examples would include Tony Hillerman.

f. The Socio-Political Mystery - a story in which the protagonist battles political adversaries, techological disasters and/or social upheaval. Writers of this sub-type include Jack Higgins and P. D. James

g. The Police Procedural Mystery - a story involving a police detective who solves a crime, or series of crimes, using techniques and procedures available to modern law enforcement agencies. A fine example would be Ed McBain, creator of Hill Street Blues.

h. The Private Eye Mystery is a mystery in which a private investigator, as opposed to a police detective, solves the crime. The investigator may be in the employ of a detective agency, insurance company, law firm, or may even be a private citizen. One of the best examples is the creator of Nero Wolfe, Rex Stout

i. The Psychological Mystery - a story of inner conflict and the interactions of the principle protagonist and related characters, in the process of solving a crime. Kidnapping an murder are the usual crimes in this sub-type. Examples include the late Stanley Ellin.

j. The Techno-Thriller - a large scale mystery involving the political or busines world in which techology plays a major role. Examples include the man credited with originating the catagory, Tom Clancy.

k. The Vigilante Mysery - a variation on the theme of the classic whodunit in which the “who” is disclosed early and the action of the story is focused on the pursuit, aprehension of the ciminal and bringing him to justice. One example is Tom Clancy.

l. The Camp Mystery - any of the above, presented in an off-beat, comical way, just for fun. Among the masters of this light-hearted sub-catagory, is Donald E. Westlake