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The Caper Mystery
What is the Caper Mystery?
The caper is one of the oddest types of mystery. There's really no murder involved. The main character is someone who is planning a big crime, typically a heist. Of course, the pathway to the perfect crime is never straightforward and the novel is full of twists and turns as the hero-thief tries to navigate his/her way to the big pay day. In many cases, the novel has large dollops of humor in it to offset the constant suspense of trying to rob a bank or the mob.
Caper Mystery Characteristics
- Level of Characterization
The characterization may vary widely. The characters can be just stereotypes to move the plot along or may be well developed, full blooded characters.
- Level of Plot
The plot is typically important ot the book and must be convoluted with multiple twists and turns to thwart the plans of the protagonist.
- Level of Mystery
There doesn't have to be a significant amount of mystery in the book. The crime is known and the criminals are typically the protagonists of the book.
- Level of Suspense
A significant level of suspense has to exist as to whether or not the main characters will succeed in getting away with the crime.
- Level of Thriller
There may be thriller elements if the item being stolen belongs to a world leader or a criminal mastermind. The theft would have to have greater ramifications for this to be true.
- Level of Strangeness
The level of strangeness depends on the plot. In many books, the characters are schleps or the item being stolen is not worth what the protagonists think it is.
- Level of Violence
There is typically a lot of violence in a caper. People don't react well to having their things stolen.
- Level of Action
There's a lot of action as the protagonists put their plans into motion
- Degree of Thriller, Suspense, Crime, and Mystery
These books are most likely t be in the suspense category. They can be in the thriller category, depending on what is being stolen. They can be mysteries if someone dies in the course of the robbery. They are not likely to be crime novels.
Related MYSTERY Subgenres
Humorous mysteries. There can be a great deal of humor in capers.
Caper Mystery isn't for you IF...
IF YOU don't like humor or don't like books with no murders.
- 1 The Hot Rock
By Donald Westlake. The first of Donald Westlake's Dortmunder novels. Not to be missed..
- 2 Arsne Lupin, Gentleman-Thief
By Maurice Leblanc. An early caper with a thief as the main character.
- 3 The Chase
By Janet Evanovich. An international thief teams up with an FBI agent to solve crimes.
- 4 The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian
By Lawrence Block. One of Block's longer series, Rhodenbarr is a burglar who runs a bookstore and has to steal precious books and artworks at times.
- 5 Stormy Weather
By Carl Hiaasen. A Florida hurricane brings out all the conmen in this comedic mystery.
- 6 Artemis Fowl
By Eoin Colfer. This series, geared for the YA audience, features a 12 year old millionaire and criminal mastermind. Highly recommended..
- 7 Two Much
By Donald E. Westlake. Westlake is on here twice, because he was one of the masters of the caper. He could easily fill this entire list.
- 8 Get Shorty
By Elmore Leonard. Chili Palmer, a loan shark, wants to get into the movie business. Elmore Leonard's works are always worth the read.
- 9 Crashed
By Timothy Hallinan. The first of the Junior Bender books with a protagonist who started in the burglary business at age 14.
- 10 The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam
By Chris Ewan. the protagonist writes about a burglar detective and is also a burglar as well. He gets dragged into a case when a stranger learns of his other profession.