'CORE' Best Lists
- Top 25 Best Mystery Books
- The Top 100 Mystery Books
- Best Mystery Audiobooks
- Best Mystery Books of Fall 2018
- Best Mystery Books of 2017
- Best Mystery Books of 2016
- Best Mystery Books of 2015
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'ERA' Best Lists
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'AUDIENCE' Best Lists
- Best Mystery Books for Women
- Best Mystery Books by Female Authors
- Best Young Adult Mystery Books
- Best Mystery Books for Children
'FILM' Best Lists
'COMICS' Best Lists
The Crime Mystery Genre
What is a Crime Mystery?
This is by far the broadest of the subcategories in the mystery world. The crime novel is a fictional tale in which a crime takes place. Though it is often used as a term to reflect a literary work involving a crime, some aficionados have opened the meaning to any and all books with crimes. However, for the most part, readers will see literary novels with a strong criminal or mystery element labeled as crime. It can be difficult at times to pinpoint the exact boundaries of the crime novel.
Crime Mystery Characteristics
- Level of Characterization
The literary elements of the book require that the characters are well-drawn. The emotions and thoughts and feelings of the characters are front and center and will be revealed to the readers.
- Level of Plot
There will be a strong element of plot in the book as well. The book will have defined events that happen, typically leading up to and resolving the crimes.
- Level of Mystery
The mystery is secondary to the plot and characters in the book. There are instances where the more literary crime novels do not even provide a solution to the mystery posed.
- Level of Suspense
There may or may not be suspense, though in most cases the suspense is limited. The plot is more attuned to bringing insight to the events rather than bringing heightened excitement.
- Level of Thriller
Crime novels and thrillers do not often mix, though there are a few exceptions.
- Level of Strangeness
The strangeness can come from the characters, who may be unreliable narrators or those with a unique perspective.
- Level of Violence
The crime involved will typically include some violence, but the crime novel is more a work of art, rather than a commercial work.
- Level of Action
The action is not a major part of the novel. Characters may travel or run, but there are rarely fight scenes and car chases within a crime novel.
- Degree of Thriller, Suspense, Crime, or Mystery in this the Crime Subgenre
The crime novel obviously falls into the crime genre. There may be mystery or suspense elements on occasion, and even thriller elements (rarely), but mainly this is a literary novel that involves a crime as a plot point.
Related MYSTERY Subgenres
Crime Mystery isn't for you IF...
like real people committing real crimes for real reasons. Or if you need a dictionary to understand the language of the crime novel.
- 1 Every Secret Thing
By Laura Lippman. Two young girls may or may not have killed a baby.
- 2 The Talented Mr. Ripley
By Patricia Highsmith. The novel introduced Tom Ripley, a psychopath who kills to get ahead in the world.
- 3 Into the Woods
By Tana French. A policeman has to face his own fears about the forest when a child goes missing.
- 4 The Gold Finch
By Donna Tartt. A young boy inherits a much desired painting.
- 5 Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
By Peter Høeg. Part of the Scandinavian noir, the book looks at the death of a young boy. Was it murder or an accident?
- 6 The Name of the Rose
By Umberto Eco. The thinking person's novel of medieval Europe and a dark mystery.
- 7 Bleak House
ByCharles Dickens. One of the earliest uses of a policeman as a major character in a book.
- 8 Live Flesh
By Ruth Rendell. A story about a con whose life seems to have been one mishap after another.
- 9 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
By Stieg Larsson. A translation of a novel about the investigation into the disappearance of a millionaire's granddaughter.
- 10 Gaudy Night
By Dorothy L. Sayers. The highly literate work looking into the state of women's education while solving the case of a poison pen.