'CORE' Best Lists
- Top 25 Best Mystery Books
- The Top 100 Mystery Books
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- Best Mystery Books of 2016
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'AUDIENCE' Best Lists
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The Puzzle Mystery Genre
What is a Puzzle Mystery?
The puzzle mystery is what most people think of when they hear of the mystery genre. The puzzle mystery is predicated on a game of pitting the reader against the writer. The plot to the book is king and the question is how or why was the crime committed? These books are great to read once, but many are read once and discarded since many of them are predicated so heavily on the elements of plot and surprise. These are often called "fair play" mysteries, because everything the reader needs to know in order to solve the mystery must be presented, though it may be in ways misdirect the reader.
Puzzle Mystery Characteristics
- Level of Characterization
The characterization may be excellent or a bit thin. The characters are like pawns on the chessboard. Character A has to be here in Chapter 8 and there in Chapter 10. Their thoughts and feelings are secondary to the places they have to be and the clues they must drop.
- Level of Plot
The plot is everything to the puzzle plot mystery. All else is icing on the framework of the plot and the clues that must be planted for the reader.
- Level of Mystery
There will be a great deal of mystery involved in the plot. The reader will be unlikely to solve the plot and learn the solution to the mystery until the final few pages of the book.
- Level of Suspense
The suspense can be high if the characters have a lot at stake. The detective may only have hours to save the unjustly accused from a death penalty.
- Level of Thriller
These books are typically less concerned with world events and high-stake happenings than smaller crimes.
- Level of Strangeness
There can be a great deal of strangeness in the books. Clues may be odd, as in pistachio ice cream or dogs that don't bark. The cause of death can be confusing too.
- Level of Violence
There can be some level of violence, but overall, the books tend to be less violent than most. The focus is on the clues and plot, not the fist fights.
- Level of Action
There may be some action and dangerous scenes, but for the most part, sleuth is asking questions and trying to find out precisely what happened.
Degree of Puzzle Mystery, Puzzle Mystery, Crime, or Mystery in the Puzzle Mystery Subgenre
These are mysteries, pure and simple. The rest of the categories really pale in comparison to the mystery in the story.
Related MYSTERY Subgenres
Amateur sleuth, .Golden Age mysteries.
Puzzle Mystery isn't for you IF...
like action and thrills. These are more cerebral books.
- 1 Murders in the Rue Morgue
By Edgar Allan Poe. Granted it's a short story, but it started the puzzle mystery genre off in style. Who killed the women in Paris?
- 2 The Hound of the Baskervilles
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The ultimate Sherlock Holmes novel with the hound from hell.
- 3 Murder on the Orient Express
By Agatha Christie. Who killed the infamous kidnapper on the famous train heading to France?
- 4 Have His Carcase
By Dorothy L. Sayers. who killed the gigolo on the coast? Lord Peter and Harriett Vane have to find out.
- 5 The Mystery of the Yellow Room
By Gaston LeRoux. One of the very first locked room puzzles published.
- 6 The Burning Court
By John Dickson Carr. One of the best writers of intricate puzzle novels.
- 7 The Water Room
By Christopher Fowler. A modern day puzzle master, this book has a victim drown in a dry room.
- 8 The Siamese Twin Mystery
By Ellery Queen. Murder on a mountain side with a dying clue.
- 9 A Red Herring Without Mustard
By Alan Bradley. Flavia DeLuce is a young scientist in search of clues to a mysterious crime.
- 10 Nine Times Nine
By HH Holmes (Anthony Boucher). A man dies in a locked room apparently from a monk's curse.