Book Genres: Sifting Through That Mess (Mystery Edition)

Previously, I posted the beginning of a new series discussing genres. One of the highlights of that post was mysteries. Today, I’m going to give you the definitions of mystery subgenres. And there are a lot of them. I’m only going to go through the most popular (i.e. the ones most likely to be on a list of genres represented by literary agents).

COZY

Usually set in a small town, cozies have an intelligent amateur female sleuth. She uses her town connections and gossip to solve the murder. The murder itself is played down, and there’s very little violence. Think Murder, She Wrote.

LEGAL/COURTROOM

The sleuth in these is a lawyer or other court official who takes it upon him/herself to solve the crime while the incompetent police are on the wrong track.

DETECTIVE (P.I.)

Often set in cities, these feature private detectives on the case.

DETECTIVE (POLICE)

This can include forensics, serial killers, stalkers, etc. The protagonist is a police detective (or team of police detectives) who try to catch an extremely intelligent nemesis. Usually, these stories switch POV between detective and bad guy.

CAPER/HEIST

Crooks or a band of crooks are placed in the role of antihero in this subgenre. He/she/they plan an intricate crime, but it never goes right. Think Ocean’s Eleven.

AMATEUR INVESTIGATOR

This one is pretty self-explanatory. The sleuth is neither a police detective nor a P.I.

DOCTOR DETECTIVE

Again, a bit self-explanatory. A doctor comes across a murder and solves it.

BUMBLING DETECTIVE

A funny, endearing sleuth solves crimes. Think Pink Panther.

FURRY SLEUTH

Cuteness. These feature mostly cats and sometimes dogs as the detective.

HARD-BOILED/TART NOIR/NOIR

Probably the most popular category, this one features a gritty, cynical male P.I. solving crimes in an equally gritty and cynical urban setting.

HISTORICAL

Clever detectives in historical settings.

SUPERNATURAL

These overlap with fantasy. They follow the normal mystery format, but the villain ultimately turns out to be a ghost or other supernatural being.

THIRD WORLD

An increasingly popular subgenre, this one features crimes and detectives in third world cultures.

WHODUNNIT

The typical mystery, this features a detective who is either already at the scene of the murder or is brought in. There are many obvious suspects, but the ultimate villain ends up being the least likely. The solution to the mystery is revealed during an oddly calm setting in the end.

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