'CORE' Best Lists
- Top 25 Best Mystery Books
- The Top 100 Mystery Books
- Best Mystery Books of 2015
- Best Mystery Series
- Best Mystery Stand Alones
- Best Modern Mystery Books
- Best Classic Mystery Books
- Underrated Mystery Books
'ERA' Best Lists
'GENRE' Best Lists
- Best Police Procedural Books
- Best Mystery Thriller Books
- Best Mystery Suspense Books
- Best Whodunit Mystery Books
- Best True Crime Books
- Best Mystery Thriller Books
- Best Amateur Detective Books
- Best Private Investigator Books
- Best Hard Boiled Mystery Books
- Best Literary Mystery Books
- Best Cozy Mystery Books
- Best Supernatural Mystery Books
- Best Historical Mystery Books
- Best Fantasy Mystery Books
- Best Science Fiction Mystery Books
- Best Romantic Mystery Books
'AUDIENCE' Best Lists
- Best Mystery Books for Women
- Best Mystery Books by Female Authors
- Best Young Adult Mystery Books
- Best Mystery Books for Children
The Murder Mystery Genre
What is a Murder Mystery?
The murder mystery is perhaps the most common of the types of mysteries. Death is a crime that cannot be undone. So there's no going back once the murder is committed. The stakes are higher as well, since the crimes can carry the death penalty in certain cases. So the murder mystery pits the detective against the villain who is trying to stay out of jail and keep the police in the dark as to what really happened. Nearly all mysteries involve murders, though there are some notable exceptions.
Murder Mystery Characteristics
- Level of Characterization
The characters may be well-developed or may be somewhat two-dimensional. It depends on the author and the book. The characters can drive the plot or be driven by the plot.
- Level of Plot
The plot is important to the murder mystery. The crime must be solved and social order must be restored by the solution. So much of the book relies on the plot of the book.
- Level of Mystery
While there are some famous examples of books that start by telling the reader who is to be killed and by whom, it's rare for a mystery novel to not follow the typical crime followed by solution approach.
- Level of Suspense
There may be some suspense, created by the sleuth trying to find out the killer while the killer is trying to prevent that from happening.
- Level of Thriller
The murder mystery may have some thriller elements if the crime has worldwide implications or involves crimes high in the government.
- Level of Strangeness
Certain authors have a tendency to involve strangeness in their books. The crimes can be straightforward or downright odd.
- Level of Violence
The plot may include some violence. The murder may be described in detail, either as it happens or in the aftermath and forensics.
- Level of Action
The level of action varies, though in most cases, the books are more focused on the crimes than perpetrating more crimes against the sleuth.
- Degree of Thriller, Suspense, Crime, or Mystery in the Murder Mystery Subgenre
It has mystery in the title, so it's fairly clear where this one belongs. While murder mysteries can be related to the thriller and suspense categories, for the most part, the mystery is the key element and the murder is the plot device to move things along.
Related MYSTERY Subgenres
Puzzle Mystery, Golden Age Detection
Murder Mystery isn't for you IF...
like action and thrills. These are more cerebral books.
- 1 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
By Agatha Christie. The most notorious of Christie's mysteries, it's ahrd to see this one coming.
- 2 The Cuckoo's Calling
By Robert Galbraith (JK Rowlings). Harry Potter's creator takes on the PI genre
- 3 Cat of Many Tails
By Ellery Queen. A serial killer is loose in New York City
- 4 The Corpse Steps Out
By Craig Rice. The corpse won't stay in one place in this funny murder mystery from one of the most consistently funny authors
- 5 The Doorbell Rang
By Rex Stout. The ever fascinating Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin take on a murder and the FBI
- 6 The Ambush of My Name
By Jeffrey Marks. Murder in post-Civil War Ohio. Can US Grant help solve the mystery?
- 7 A Puzzle for Fools
By Patrick Quentin. Murder in a mental institution.
- 8 Postmortem
By Patricia Cornwell. The ME takes on a case of murder
- 9 The Big Sleep
By Raymond Chandler. Corruption and murder in the city of Los Angeles
- 10 The Maltese Falcon
By Dashiell Hammett. Sam Spade tries to learn what happened to his murdered partner.