I have had a couple of requests for more information on various types of mysteries within the genre. What do I mean by Soft-boiled? What is a police procedural? These words get thrown around when talking about mysteries – are they useful?
YES! If you know if a mystery is a Cozy and locked room mystery, well, you know it involves a dead person in a locked room written in the cozy style! This can help you decide if that is the mystery for you. Liking P.I. mysteries doesn’t mean you will necessarily like Animal mysteries or Serial Killer mysteries. And so on.
I normally break this down by STYLE and TYPE, to try and describe the mystery we each prefer. For instance, in STYLE where there are four choices – Traditional, Hard-boiled, Cozy (sometimes called Soft-boiled), or Combination. I prefer a combination of hard-boiled and cozy or what I call a Combination Mystery.
I like many TYPES of mysteries – P.I., Police Procedurals, Historical, Environmental, Cyber/Technological, Legal, Lone Wolf, and many more. What I do not prefer are Animal, Hobby, Romantic Suspense, Mixed(Sci-Fi), Medical or Religious mysteries. Unless they are good, of course!
The difference in STYLE between the Traditional, Hard-boiled and Cozy is the easiest to see.
- Traditional — whodunit, emphasis on plot not character, rigid puzzle rules—Think Agatha Christie
- Hardboiled – usually professional sleuth, violence shown, urban setting, loner sleuth, the world is usually not a moral place – Think Michael Connelly
- Cozy (soft-boiled) – usually amateur sleuth, not realistic, light tone, closed setting, no bad language nor shown violence, wrong and right clearly defined – Think Janet Evanovich
- Combination – modern mysteries with elements of both hard and soft boiled – Think Tony Hillerman
There are many TYPES of mysteries—everything from Amateur cop to Noir to Culinary. While the STYLE really divides readers by philosophy, the TYPE of mystery usually just describes who the hero/ heroine will be. Here are some TYPES of mysteries:
- PI — Philip Kerr or Robert Parker
- Police procedural – Louise Penny or Elizabeth George
- Police assistant – Martin Limon or Paul Dioron
- Lone wolf – Carol O’Connell or Thomas Perry
- Ex-cops – Jonathon King or Lee Child
- Amateur – Julia Spencer-Fleming or Barbara Neely
- Reporter – Mary Willis Walker or Denise Mina
- Historical — CJ Sansom or Anne Perry
- Serial Killer – Thomas Harris or Tami Hoag
- Locked Room – John Dickson Carr or John Verdon
- Noir — Robert Crais or James Lee Burke
- Caper – Donald Westlake or Roger Hobbs
- Romatic Suspense – Mary Higgins Clark or Nora Roberts
- Mixed (with Sci Fi) – J.D. Robb or Ben H. Winters
- Hobby or Themed –Earlene Fowler or Laura Childs
- Animal — Lilian Jackson Braun or Dick Francis
- Culinary – Ellen Hart or Tamar Myers
- Religious –Margaret Frazer or Ellis Peters
- Environment – CJ Box or Nevada Barr
- Technology – Robert Harris or William Gibson
And then of course, there is the International Mystery with all the various countries taking the stage as their own type– Not just the British, but the Scandinavians, the Mediterraneans, the Russians, the South Americans, the Asians! And more and more – The Africans.
If you look at the bottom of each blog post on books reviewed, you will see I have labeled the TYPE (and sometimes STYLE) on the tags. For example: Gun Street Girl is Hard-boiled and Historical/ Police Procedural. I only tag Hard-boiled or Cozy in STYLE, as almost all modern books are a Combination.
And finally, if that doesn’t confuse you enough, there are the Thrillers, which I don’t even qualify as mysteries. I enjoy them, yes, but mysteries — no.
But that is for another day…..