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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.

Popular Murder Mystery Books