When I first looked into Mystery (or is it Crime Fiction?) a few years ago it began and ended for me with the 'Find the Murderer' type of novel as well as those bestselling series of novels with one protagonist who solves a case per book.

I understand there is more than that -- and I was curious what would count as belonging under the umbrella Mystery and what would be left in the rain. What are the names of subgenres?

There is Noir (where does that term come from anyway? Film Noir, by any chance?), what else is there? Which niches exist? And then, ultimately, what *is* mystery/crime fiction to you, how would you define it?

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Wow... well, first, I think there is a ton of overlap among the subgenres. Much PI fiction is noir, but not all, for example. Subgenres include police procedural, PI, amateur sleuth, and even material written from the criminal's POV. But rarely are they neat little packages anymore. A criminal could be a cop, for instance.

Not to mention the overlap even outside the "crime" genre into horror, sci-fi, romance...

I don't think "noir" is a subgenre, by the way... I think it is more of a description. Honestly, I think cozy is too. As Spinetingler showed this past year, you can even have cozy noir.

I think labels are helpful, but not the end-all be-all of reading or especially of writing. Basically writers have to walk an incredibly fine line between coming up with something "fresh and original" that might straddle a number of subgenres... and coming up with something that can be marketed and sold to an audience that (supposedly) knows what it wants.

Clear as mud? :)
Certainly I am not much into labelling, but it helps to get some sort of overview what is out there (and embarrassing enough I had to ask someone what exactly amateur sleuth implied) and how people see the genre or non-genre they write in.
I think Christa pretty much said it all. There is so much overlap. The moment you try to put that mystery in the round hole, someone's gonna write one that fits in the square hole. And when that one hits the shelves, they discover that just because it has four sides, it isn't necessarily at right angles.

Take the almost age-old mystery vs. thriller discussion. Like "mystery" the word "thriller" has various connotations--depending on who you ask.
I have been wondering about that somewhere below, since for me mystery and thriller are dealing with similar issues, only that one is spotlighting details the others leaves more blurry. Definitely a sea of opinions without clear definitions, I see that now.
hi nick!

i can almost imagine a chart with mystery at the top and all these branches breaking off into even more branches. and there's no solid definition of any of it. i tend to think of crime fiction as a police procedural where you begin with the crime and most of the book involves solving the murder and catching the killer. but that's really only another branch of crime fiction. crime fiction is an umbrella of its own and can also be broken down. there is also a huge amount of crossover going on right now. my last book was crime fiction/thriller/horror, and to my mind any of those could go under the mystery umbrella.
Yes, I always thought that really police investigation/detective novels were crime fiction and that all the other books I was reading were ... Literary (yet a bigger melting pot), at best. By now I would count many of them as mystery, or as carrying crime fiction elements.

I like the idea of crime fiction/thriller/horror, I have to look into that.

So thriller is not technically crime fiction?
Hey, Nick. Try this list on for size. I got it off a mystery website...

Academic - takes place in an academic setting or with characters from academic settings
Alternate History - Alternate History
Amateur Sleuth - Main character is otherwise employed
Cats - Cats are important to the storyline
Cozy - Light reading - comfortable - characters more important than crime
Culinary - Chefs, catering, etc
Dark Fantasy - Dark Fantasy
Disaster - Story focuses on natural or man-made disaster and the perpetrators
Dogs - Dogs are important to the storyline
Dragons - Books featuring Dragons
Eco-thriller - Ecology is main focus of story line
Espionage - Secret Agents, Government Conspiracies, Spies
FBI - FBI featured
Futuristic - Set in Earth's possible future
Gay / Lesbian
Genetic Engineering - Genetic Engineering
Government Agency
Government Conspiracy
Gun Control - Mysteries that debate gun control
Hard Boiled
Historical - Set in Earth's Past
Holiday - Holidays are important to the storyline
Horror - Graphic
How-to Book
Inspirational Fiction
Juvenile - Pre High School
King Arthur - Based on the Legend of King Arthur
Korean War - Korean War
Legal Setting - Lawyers, court-room settings, legal procedurals
Marketing - Marketing
Married Couple
Mech Warriors
Men's Adventure - Men's Adventure (usually military, espionage, etc)
Mental Illness
Movie Related
Movie Tie In
Nano-Tech - Nano Technology
Nasa - Nasa Related Story
Native American - Native American
Noir - Dark stories
Oprah's Book Club - Oprah's Book Club selection
Paranormal - Paranormal (see also Supernatural)
Picture Book
Police Procedural - Depends heavily on current police procedures
Political Commentary - Political Commentary
Political Intrigue - Political Intrigue
Politics - Politics
Post Nuclear War
Prehistoric - Prehistoric
Present Day Science Based - Present Day Science Based
Private Investigator - Self-employed
Psychological Suspense
Publishing - Publishing
Reference - Contains reference material
Regional Cooking - Regional Cooking
Religious Cult
Religious Fiction - Religion is important to the storyline
Religious Non-Fiction - non-fiction Religious Works
Robin Hood
Romance (BBW) - Romances with average or large size women
Romantic Suspense - Romantic involvement of main character in story
SEO - Search Engine Optimization
Scientific based - Present-day Scientific based
Secret Service - US Secret Service
Senior Sleuths
Serial Killer
Sherlock Holmes
Sociology - Sociology
Southern Style Cooking - Southern Style Cooking
Space Opera
Space Shuttle
Star Trek - Star Trek
Star Trek - Enterprise - Star Trek Enterprise
Star Trek DS9 - Star Trek DS9
Star Trek TNG - Star Trek TNG
Star Trek Voyager - Star Trek Voyager
Star Wars - Star Wars
Supernatural - A bit of the supernatural included
Supernatural Detectives - Supernatural Detectives
TV Tie In
Techno Thriller - Tewchnology based Edge-of-your-seat world-may-end
Thriller - Edge-of-your-seat reading
Time Travel - Time Travel
Today Show Book Club Pick
Travel - Travel Books
True Crime
Undercover Agent - Undercover Agent
Vampire - Vampire Fantasy
Vietnam or Vietnam Vet
WW I - Time setting is WW I
WW II - Time setting is WW II
WW III - World War Three
Woman Main Character - woman main character
Woman's Resources - Resource books for women
Wonder Woman
Writer's Resources - Info on Writing Books and getting them published
Young Adult - In general, ages 11-15
Young Reader - In general, ages 5-10
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Thanks for the list. It makes me think that mystery can be everything and everything can be mystery, which is rather entertaining to think about.
LOL. Proves to what ridiculous lengths genre-ing can go.

Is it a good story? Read it.
I think crime fiction include stories that feature a crime, or at least the threat of a crime. As for being left out in the rain, well, there are a lot of books on the outer edge of the genre that get dripped on; books that some wouldn't claim as crime fiction like THE GREAT GATSBY or THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME, but I would.
See - I think I can relate to that since I'd put both, as well as a lot of others, as crime fiction/mystery/mysterious fiction. I'd half figured that there would no definition, only opinions, which is fine, I guess.


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