BooksnBytes Logo

 

A list of BnB genres

MYSTERY GENRES
Other opinion #1 / Opinion #2

For me, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Genres are pretty much self explanatory.  Mystery genres [and Fiction genres], however, can be VERY confusing.  This is how _I_ have been classifying them.  Hopefully, when you get used to how my mind works, it will be easier to find new authors on our lists that you will enjoy.  You can always use the search engine, but we have tried to make it easier for you by compiling more lists.  I can't help it - I'm a list freak. That's how BnB started to begin with!

Books may have up to four genres in our current database.  That SHOULD give you a reasonable idea of whether you will enjoy the book, or not, or at least what the story line contains.  Once in a while I simply run out of room, and pick what are the most important four to me.  Feel free to disagree.  By all means, e-mail me and we can discuss it.  One author did just that, and I changed the main genre for her book.

To see the complete index of genres for Books 'n' Bytes, click here.

A further note:  I only award paws to authors that I have read consistently and enjoyed myself.  Many of the authors with which I am familiar have "blurbs" at the top of their listing.  I am working on expanding these as I have time.  This does NOT mean that I wouldn't enjoy the other authors - it generally means that I have not read their books yet!  If a book is marked with a "" it means that we have a copy of the book in our personal library, but I am nowhere NEAR current on that part of the database - we have THOUSANDS.  Feel free to e-mail us and ask questions, if you like!  We will do our best!  Vicki for Mysteries and Fantasy; David for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Military.

Alphabetically, the genres I use for mysteries are:

Amateur Sleuth:  The main character in the book is NOT officially working as a detective of any sort.  Generally he/she is pulled into a mystery by a friend or relative.

Cats:  Cats are central to the story.  Sometimes they talk [Shirley Rousseau Murphy and Rita Mae Brown], sometimes you hear them think [Midnight Louie], sometimes they are a beloved pet of the main character [Lilian Jackson Braun], but in some way they are important to the story line.

Cozy:  There is a LOT of discussion on what does/does not constitute a cozy.

    American Cozy: see Classic Cozy, but may include broader, harder-edged activity in a larger community.

    Classic Cozy: small enclosed community, sex or violence off-stage, amateur sleuth, eccentric characters, a puzzle solved.

   Potato Chip book: a good, quick, light read that won't keep you awake at night.

Classic:  Not a cozy.  A good old fashioned mystery that tells a good story.  Not a thriller, as they have come to be defined.

Disaster: Plane crashes, natural disasters [floods, earthquakes, etc are a part of the story line.

Dogs: Dogs are central to the story.  Sometimes they are a beloved pet of the main character, but in some way they are important to the story line.

Eco-thriller: World-wide ecological disaster is threatened.

Espionage: The classic definition. May be a thriller or a mystery and may or may not involve techno aspects.

Ethnic:  The ethnic background of the main character is an important factor in the story.  Jane Haddam's main character is Armenian and lives in an ethnic neighborhood.  Tony Hillerman's main characters are American Indians and live on reservations.  Generally, the ethnicity is a part of the story.

Gay/Lesbian:  The principal characters/protagonists are gay or lesbian and involved at some overt level in the gay/lesbian/bi/transgender culture.

Government Agency: The story centers around a government agency.  It may be the FBI, or the CIA, or the Department of Fish and Game, or our National Parks.

Hard-Boiled:  Usually a professional sleuth, male or female takes on cases and solves them with with intelligence and violence. Frequently includes casual sex. Gritty, usually socially aware.  Mike Hammer is a good reference for a hard-boiled professional.

High-Tech: Current and/or future technology plays an important factor in the story.

Historical: These books usually take place pre-1940.  Many take place in the far distant past.

Holiday: The books center around a particular holiday.

Humorous: This one you may have trouble with . . . I have been told I have a warped sense of humor.  For me, this category is defined by Janet Evanovich, Katy Munger, and Sparkle Hayter.  One of the main characters is usually a wise-a**.  They can't leave a straight line alone.

Legal Setting: The story centers around an attorney's office, or the court system.

Married Couple: Usually amateur sleuths, but the couple works together to solve the mystery.

Medical: The central location of the story is a hospital, or one of the main characters is in a medically-related field

Millennium: Futuristic, Y2K problems, etc.

Noir:  Frequently coupled with a hard-boiled private investigator.  The protagonist, atmosphere and outcomes are marked by darkness of soul, reflected in the coloration of the novel, as well as themes, actions. It is NOT nihilism, but may involve ethical nihilism.

Occult: In some fashion, the occult is a main part of the story line. [see Mercedes Lackey

Police Procedural:  Law enforcement types solve crimes with use of PD resources and techniques.

Political Intrigue: Politics, in all its glory, is central to the story.

Private Investigator: The main character is actively employed as a PI.  I have not yet broken these down into hard-boiled or soft-boiled - sorry!

Psychic: [see supernatural

Psychological Suspense: Generally, the protagonists is a psychiatrist.  Often he/she is assisting a local law enforcement agency.  These books often explore the psychology behind the crime, and the mind of the criminal.

Religious Fiction: A church or a religion is central to the main story line.

Romantic Suspense: Romance is probably more important to the story than the mystery.

Scientific based mystery investigations: Based on today's technology, it may include forensics, a medical examiner, fingerprint experts, etc.  Goes into detail on how science helped solve the mystery.

Secret Agent:  The classic definition of espionage. may be a thriller or a mystery and may or may not involve techno aspects.

Senior Sleuths: The amateurs in this case are generally retired and "older".

Serial Killer: The good guys are after a serial killer.  Not generally for the squeamish.

Soft-boiled P.I.: see Hard-boiled P.I. but less explicit, more frequently a female sleuth and less violence.

Supernatural: Ghoulies and ghosties, and long-legged beasties?  Not necessarily, but there is a supernatural emphasis to the story. 

Supernatural Detectives:  Protagonist relies heavily on extra powers, such as a psychic detective. The "woo-woo" factor may vary greatly.

Techno-Thriller:  Includes everything in  the Thriller category but focusing on highly modern and technical weaponry and equipment, on both sides of the story.

Telepathy: [see supernatural

Theater: The story centers on a theater or actors.

Thriller:  Often, but not always, multi-national, high energy, involving major threats such as bio-terrorism, governmental crisis, nuclear weaponry, kidnappings, serial killers;; often also high-tech.

Time Travel: The main character goes either forward or backward in time.

Vampire: Usually the vampires are the bad guys, but not always!  [see Tanya Huff]

Virtual or Cyber-mystery: This is a fantasy, obviously, but is more than just a fantasy, due to the conflict, mystery and crime involved.

Woman Main: The main character is female.

Young Adult: Books for pre-teens, teens.

Young Reader: How young is young?  Probably between 6-10.

OTHER OPINIONS:

From Camille in RAM [rec.arts.mystery]

Mysteries encompass, officially, any fiction which involves a crime. So yes, it is a very wide category. However, I expect you are running across the problem with reading short fiction to get a feel for the genre: short fiction doesn't have room to set up the characters, plant the clues, and unmask the killer the
way novels do. So short fiction leans toward the simple "twist" crime story, such as you'd see on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show.

Mystery novels cover a very wide territory, but you will see a much higher proportion of the old fashioned puzzler among novels.

In the old days, publishers and critics classed mysteries in four (later five) sub-genres.
    1) Ratiocinative (Puzzler, Whodunnit or "Classic"), where the emphasis was on the clues and the puzzle (Holmes, Ellery Queen, Charlie Chan).
    2) Cozy, overlaps with the above, but specifically has a domestic setting, and an amateur detective -- and it's about the people more than the clues. Agatha Christie is the prime example here.
    3) Hard-boiled--which may or may not involve a puzzle--has a private detective or criminal as the main character, and is about the seedier side of life. It relates to much pulp fiction and Film Noir. Dashiel Hammett and Raymond Chandler are the major examples here.
    4) Police Procedural, which also may or may not involve a puzzle, is more about the police themselves -- and may focus tightly on the case (think the TV show Law and Order) or more broadly on the melodrama of their lives (Hill Street Blues or LAPD Blue). Thriller is another sub-category--where the emphasis is on danger and suspense rather than the crime, sometimes a variation of Cozy (Woman in Jepardy) or Hard-boiled (Criminal stories).

These categories have always overlapped, and over the past few decades have spawned many many sub-categories and cross-overs. That's why mystery is a great thing for reading--so much variety, but with a strong set of traditions to tie it all together. You can see that just in the discussion in rec.arts.mystery about "sub-genres."

Nero Wolfe, btw, was considered a Puzzler, in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes and other armchair and consulting detectives, but that series has an especially broad appeal, because it has the gentleness and humor of a cozy, and Archie brings in the tough-guy edge of Hard-boiled.

Camille

AND:

From Newt in RAM [rec.arts.mystery]

Before we even get to the list below, are you asking about true crime or fiction? ;-)

whodunnit - list suspects, look for motive, name the perp
howdunnit - tricks like use icecycle as murder weapon (it melts)
whydunnit - motive is primary to solving the case
procedural - usually police or forsensic cleverness or exactness catches the goof
serial killer - can be any of the above
whatthesamhellisgoingonhere? (Read one by the Kinkster).

A generalization that I read here and now misquote for my own purpose:
mysteries withold the solution and reveal clues, thrillers lay it all out at the beginning, and it's a race to see who will win in the end. (who will reach their end-game state first).

Following on that thought, there are methods of revelation:
    see the crime, but don't know who it is. can you guess before it is revealed?
        (see the first few years of "Murder She Wrote").
    see the crime, and know who did it. will they be caught before the end?
        (see the middle years of "Murder She Wrote").

Which is used depends on what the writer wants to write. Some writers spend a lot of time revealing the evil of the perpetrator. Other writers spend a lot of time with the protagonist, only revealing other characters as need be. (Do we really need to know the eating choices of every person in a cafe that Joe Gumshoe went into to use a pay-phone?)

The detective is:
    a PI with
        no problems
        some problems
        an alcoholic propensity to miss bill payments and really needs this case.
    a police officer who is
        patrol level
        detective
        executive
        chief of police (oh yeah, they all have troubles too).
    a lawyer
        defense
        public defender
        high powered and rich
        district attorney's office
        judge
a sweet old lady or man
an animal (dog, cat, bird, horse, chicken,...) alone or in groups
an engineer
a plumber
a politician
both of the last two (see "Nibbled To Death By Ducks").

What happened?
    murder (always popular)
    theft
    dastardly deed (rigging an election).
    embezzlement
    bank robbery
    larceny
    a con
    kidnapping

Well, I hope that you can see that it is an obvious ambiguity. Everyone can instantly identify one, but can't tell you exactly what it is. Somehow, we just call it the same thing. Why? "It's a mystery"

(the entendre is at least double).   Yes, me too! make mine a double!

the newer nicer, newt

 

 


If you enjoy this website, a link would be appreciated. 
CLICK HERE to send us an update.
Copyright 1999-2004  by David and Vicki Ball. All Rights Reserved
Legal notices.