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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.

Popular Puzzle Mystery Books