Genre Confusion ~ in mystery fiction and crime fiction

A crime scene

Not Who ‘dun it, but what is it?

Mystery Fiction and Crime Fiction are often lumped together as if they are part of one fiction genre. I believe they are their own separate genres (for clarity sake). Further complicating things, today’s mystery and crime fiction works overlap and often slip-and-slide into each other. Then within the genres a novel may fit into more than one category so that determining what genre and/or category the novel falls into is often subjective. My novels have been called detective stories, murder mysteries, and cozy thrillers. Of course, the reader is always right. However, I’d like to shed some light on what we find in the world of today’s mystery and crime fiction novels. BTW, according to the list below, most of my novels fall into the mystery fiction genre and the soft-boiled detective story category. ~~ Below, I’m looking at novels written in English, mostly in American English.

Mystery Fiction

The Murder Mystery Novel:  This is a classic whodunit, a puzzle. The reader follows the clues as the sleuth discovers them which leads to who committed the crime. It’s usually a murder but can be arson, a bombing, kidnap, cyber crime, theft, embezzlement, stock manipulation and fraud, and a host of others. The author will create red-herrings (false clues), making it difficult for the sleuth and the reader to determine who the criminal is. In the end , the sleuth will catch the bad guy, and hopefully the reader will be surprised.

Detective Stories (hard boiled/noir):  Featuring a professional law enforcement officer (police detective, military police, forest ranger, canine detective and his/her dog, District Attorney’s investigator, a state investigator or state trooper, a private detective, military police, cyber crime detectives, and the like. They are often fighting their own demons such as alcoholism/drug addiction, an abusive past, etc. The murder and perhaps also other crimes happen in unsavory or bleak settings with rough and coarse or disreputable secondary and tertiary characters. Quite often there is coarse or vulgar language. The violence is most often graphically described.

Detective Stories (soft boiled):  These feature professional detectives, but are lighter in tone. There will be more psychology and less action, sometimes humor. The main character(s) will most likely have personal issues but these difficulties will be disclosed in a less gritty manner. Secondary and tertiary characters will be a mix of upstanding and disreputable. There will be less explicit or no explicit language and less violence.

Procedurals: The main character is a professional detective (as described above) or a medical examiner, a forensic behavioral psychologist (a profiler), a forensic scientist (pathologist), and so forth. They stress realistic police operations and/or realistic science where the investigator is constrained by law and department regulations. Departmental politics, even town/city politics will have some bearing.

The Cozy:  This style has traditionally featured well bred characters and a closed community setting. However, today’s cozy could just as easily have a bartender or trailer park owner as its main character instead of a leader in the community. Often there are charming or eccentric characters. The modern cozy doesn’t have to stay in a closed community, but could cross state lines as well as crossing national boundaries. The crime entails minimal violence, may have happened before the story began or occurred off-scene. It may be described, but not graphically.

The Caper:  This is a crime story with a high degree of comedy. In many ways, this is a cousin to the cozy. It may feature an incompetent amateur sleuth who solves the crime by accident (Pink Panther). Or the investigator is competent but a series of zany and outlandish occurrences continually happen to thwart him/her. Or she/he has contrary and/or eccentric family members, or business partners, or whatever that mess things up in a humorous manner. Still, he/she manages to catch the criminal.

MIXED-CATEGORY: Romantic Suspense: Romantic suspense most often falls under the mystery fiction genre as it’s usually on the soft-boiled side and has a happy romantic ending. However, we are seeing more and more gritty romantic suspense novels where the twisted mind of the villain is openly on display. Romantic Suspense is actually a combination of a genre (romance) and a category (suspense which falls under the crime fiction genre). Historical Romantic Suspense: As above, but the story is set in the past. Supernatural/Paranormal Mysteries: This is also a mix of a genre (mystery) and a category (paranormal which falls into the speculative fiction genre). Fantasy Mysteries (a mix of two categories, mystery and then fantasy which falls into speculative fiction).

MYSTERY FICTION SUB-CATEGORIES: heists (often told from the criminal’s point-of-view), historical murder mysteries, legal mysteries, medical mysteries, pet detectives (most often cats in a cozy novel or series, but can be a police dog or bomb or drug sniffing dog in a police procedural, or another animal), equine mysteries. More that are usually cozies – cooking/food mysteries, knitting/sewing mysteries, tea/coffee mysteries, granny mysteries, mommy mysteries, bridal mysteries, and many more. Location based: there are a slew of Florida based mysteries, British Isles mysteries (set in the British Isles, though not necessarily written by a citizen of the UK), Cape Cod mysteries, New Orleans and Mississippi River mysteries, Caribbean Island mysteries, and many more.

Crime Fiction

The Suspense Novel:  This type of story is designed to take the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride and can be quite psychological. There is a murderer or some other type of heinous criminal, and the main character’s job is to catch him/her. The depravity of the criminal’s mind is often displayed. This can be done quite graphically, bringing the story into a noir designation. The protagonist might not be in law enforcement, or could be. There is always a high level of danger either to the main character, his/her loved ones, community, or even her/his nation. The main character may not know what motivates the criminal and must find out. Why, is a big question. Often, at some point, the tables turn and the highly intelligent criminal pursues the main character. How can the protagonist stay alive is the other big question.

The Thriller: There is a threat to the social order, an affront to societal norms and decency. This category most often lands on the noir side and can get very dark before the light comes. The criminal or crime is introduced right up front in most cases, although the motive may not yet be known. The story may have a forensic behavioral analyst (profiler) either as a main or secondary character. There will be tension from the outset and the threat level will increase from there. The protagonist or her/his loved ones will be threatened by a highly intelligent criminal.

Thriller Sub-Categories: the psychological thriller, the spy/espionage thriller. In the legal and medical thriller, while investigating the crime against the community or nation, the lawyer or doctor (or their loved ones) will personally be threatened by the criminal outside of the legal or medical settings.

An Over-Arching Subcategory: Multi-Cultural and Diverse Subcategory. Over-arching because it can be found in both the Mystery and Crime Fiction genres, and in any of the categories and sub-categories.  These novels provide mystery and suspense while giving readers a peek into new ethnic or racial communities and cultures. Another Distinct Subcategory: The Racial/Ethnic Subcategory. This is written, most often, by a member of a racial or ethnic group for the enjoyment of members of that same group. Still another, Over-Arching Subcategory: Christian and clean Mystery and/or Crime Fiction. These novels can be found in either genre and any practically any subcategory but not all. There will be no on-page sex, no profanity, and limited violence and no glorification of these. The Young Adult and New Adult Subcategory: These are also mixes of genres (YA and NA) and the various mystery and crime fiction categories. The extremely dark categories would not be appropriate for this subcategory. Middle-Grade Mystery is a combination of mystery (a category) and (middle-grade which is a genre). These novels must be appropriate for pre-teens and under (Nancy Drew, Lady Grace Cavendish).

 

HOPE IS A DANGEROUS PLACE by Jim Baton ~ a review

Hope is a Dangerous Place

Christian Suspense, Christian mystery

 

This novel has a mystery at it’s core and there’s no shortage of suspense. It could even be said to span genres and slip into Christian Young Adult Suspense.

Hope, Colorado has secrets, more than one. There are the ‘haves’ who’ve got all the power and the ‘wannabees’ as high school jock Jordy so crassly calls them. Harmonie Seymour’s family had been in Hope for generations on the black side of town where folks live in run-down houses. The Latino residents practically live in shacks. Bigotry is rampant. Kelsey is the new kid in town. She arrived with her widower pastor dad, Bret Axel. Both girls are outsiders in the high school and soon become fast friends. Pastor Bret Axel has the gift of prayer. He is a mighty prayer warrior, but he’s also bound by anxiety and fear since the untimely death of his wife…so much so that he pops Valerian to calm his nerves.

Enter the new high school teacher Olivia Montez, who has her own baggage. She assigns the three students in her journalism class an assignment  and has no idea will blow up in all their faces. She wants Kelsey, Harmonie, and an angry young Latino student named Miguel to interview elderly residents about the town’s name change. It was once named Purgatory. However in the mid-1940s the name was changed to Hope. There are powerful people, perhaps those in the original families, who don’t want anyone looking into the past and they will go further to stop the investigation than these three students can ever imagine.

This novel is a very good example of redemptive Christian fiction…and yet the author keeps it real, very real. Bad and/or worldly guys act and talk like bad and worldly guys. I’d recommend this novel to anyone from ages 17 to 117 who enjoys suspense and a story where the characters grow in their Christian walk.

 

SECRETS & LIES by Janet Sketchley ~ a review

Secrets & Lies. 2 jpg

Who can she trust?

The author sets up a situation where Carol Daniels, a pretty blonde waitress at a local café, her son Paul, and wealthy antagonist Patrick Stairs are caught in an elaborate trap set up by drug lord Lear, a man with a far reach. Sadness is a burden Carol carries as her oldest son Keith died of a drug overdose, and his father and her husband, rock ‘n roll guitarist Skip Daniels, abandoned her and Paul. As if that is not enough to weigh her down, Carol’s brother Harry Silver is in prison having been convicted of serial murder and rape. He’s also holding out on Lear, having hidden a large sum of illicit drug money, and the drug lord is threatening Carol to help him get his money back.

The author does a fine job with characterization. We get to know jittery, suspicious, emotionally shut-down Carol who is on the verge and sometimes even crosses the line at being over-protective and controlling toward her teenage son Paul. Yet, the author somehow makes this tense mother likeable, and I found myself in her corner.

Oldies radio jock Joey Hill is likeable from the get go. He’s an all-around nice guy, but unbeknownst to Carol, he’s also got a drug past. When she finds out, she’s unable to trust him and turns to Patrick who is being manipulated by Lear. And so, the treacherous web gets more tangled.

This is a Redemption’s Edge Novel, book two but it is definitely a stand-alone. It is Christian fiction and a clean read. I recommend it to anyone who likes a well plotted suspense novel with well-developed characters.

Shadows of the Past by Patricia Bradley ~ tackling my ‘to read list’

Shadows of the Past

Intense feelings of failure pervaded profiler Taylor Martin’s life. She couldn’t prevent a young man from murdering his stepfather. Her former fiance left her a ‘dear Jane’ letter. In her present case, she failed professionally, and the local sheriff was badly injured.

The author constructed strong main characters in Taylor Martin and best selling mystery writer Nick Sinclair. The development of these characters’ inner vulnerabilities as well as the tension between them was deftly done. There is tremendous suspense as the plot thickens and it becomes obvious the stalker/killer in the case she’s come to Memphis to solve is someone Taylor knew…and the reader knows him too…but who?

However, there’s another case to solve. Taylor’s father has been missing for over twenty years. Her family strongly prefers she not dredge up old wounds, but Taylor has nightmares involving his disappearance and she wants answers.

The novel delves into faith in God and questions people have, such as does God care? However, it’s never preachy. Some of the characters are Christian, some are seekers, many are neither. Just like in real life. I recommend this novel for ages 17 to 117.

Double Barrel Mysteries by Barbara Ellen Brink ~ an intriguing series

I was intrigued by the intelligence of the DOUBLE BARREL MYSTERIES so I asked its author, Barbara Ellen Brink to share with my readers how this well-constructed series came about and evolved. This is one that has everything I love in mysteries suspense, plenty of twists and turns, laughs, and quirky characters.

Let’s turn it over to Barbara…

Blake and Shelby Gunner ARE Double Barrel Investigations

My husband and I took a road trip along Lake Superior to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula about three years back. It was a beautiful fall weekend and the changing colors were amazing. Soon after, I woke from a dream and started writing Double Barrel Mysteries. Rather than an actual storyline, my dream consisted of characters and setting.

The Double Barrel team of Blake and Shelby Gunner was in my head as clear as bold font. Blake is a cop. Shelby’s an actress who speaks Shakespeare as a second language. Together they make the perfect team. He’s got the experience of a seasoned detective and she can act like one.

Now all I needed was a murder for them to solve.

Roadkill

 

 

In ROADKILL, the Gunners consider moving from Minneapolis to the safe, small-town environment of Blake’s hometown. They take a road trip to Port Scuttlebutt in order to check out an old bed & breakfast on the market, and soon get pulled into the cold case of an unsolved hit-and-run. Surprisingly, Port Scuttlebutt isn’t as innocent as it appears on the surface. Their investigation stirs up danger as easily as a Lake Superior storm churns up waves.

I always begin one of my Double Barrel Mysteries by writing the murder scene. Once I’ve killed off someone, I start making up the story about how it came to be. Funny thing is, I don’t usually know who the killer is until at least the middle. In fact, sometimes it’s almost the end of the book before I know whodunit. If the author is surprised, I’m pretty sure the reader will be too.

Much Ado About Murder

 

In MUCH ADO ABOUT MURDER, Blake and Shelby have just begun renovating the old boathouse into offices for Double Barrel Investigations when they get sidetracked with a case of murder. Someone buried Pete’s ex-wife under his woodpile, making Pete look as guilty as a cocker spaniel surrounded by chicken feathers. Being the talk of the town after solving their last case, Blake and Shelby feel the pressure to find the killer and keep their newly hired construction foreman out of jail. After all, winter is coming on and the doors and windows have yet to be installed.

 

Midsummer Madness

The third book in the Double Barrel Mysteries was released this past weekend. In MIDSUMMER MADNESS, Blake and Shelby have a surprise announcement that everyone seems to know before they tell them. Shelby is working to get the new Port Playhouse ready for its grand opening when a local business owner asks the Gunners to look for his stolen fishing boat. A stranger’s body turns up in the Lake near the Drunken Sailor Bed & Breakfast and a missing boat quickly morphs into a case of murder. With new friends under suspicion and a killer still unidentified, the Gunners have to work quickly to solve the case before someone else is pulled into the madness.

Barbara’s Bio:

Barbara Ellen Brink

Barbara Ellen Brink is a multi-published author, wife of one long-suffering husband, mother to two adult children, walker to one very spoiled mutt, lover of funny baby-goat videos, and a black licorice connoisseur. She grew up on a small fruit farm in Washington State, but now lives in the mean “burbs” of Minnesota. In her spare time – when she’s not reading – she likes to take her motorcycle for a spin, hang out with friends, or catch up on the latest movies.

She is the author of the best-selling Fredrickson Winery Novels; young adult series, The Amish Bloodsuckers Trilogy; inspirational suspense series, Second Chances; and the Double Barrel Mysteries. Her speculative/thriller, Split Sense, won the 2012 Grace Award, and Much Ado About Murder won this year’s Grace Award in mystery/suspense/thriller.

handgun

Purchase Links:

ROADKILL

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VN0A3QC

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/roadkill-barbara-e-brink/1121462059;jsessionid=E5F3028898CB93BC29D756AFF133EDA0.prodny_store01-atgap01?ean=2940154967577

iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/roadkill/id1311166714?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/roadkill-21

 

MUCH ADO ABOUT MURDER

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FN1YIJ4

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/much-ado-about-murder-barbara-e-brink/1123747711;jsessionid=E5F3028898CB93BC29D756AFF133EDA0.prodny_store01-atgap01?ean=2940154996850

iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/much-ado-about-murder/id1311168692?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/much-ado-about-murder-4

 

MIDSUMMER MADNESS

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07798B882

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/midsummer-madness-barbara-ellen-brink/1127329433;jsessionid=E5F3028898CB93BC29D756AFF133EDA0.prodny_store01-atgap01?ean=2940154990186

iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/midsummer-madness/id1311176460?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/midsummer-madness-9

 

When Death Draws Near (A Gwen Marcy Novel) by Carrie Stuart Parks ~ a review

Book Three in a Series

When Death Draws Near

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey needs a job, so she and her daughter head for Appalachian hill country and Pikeville, Kentucky. She’s been hired to draw the likeness of the “Hillbilly Rapist” to help local law enforcement catch him. His victims and witnesses vanish. The author shows Gwen’s depth of character in a range of situations. Her heart goes out to the rape victims and she faces the fear of her own cancer scare.

Gwen is plunged into a second mysterious case surrounding a local snake handling church and a growing number of murders…some by snake bite. She is persuaded by a prestigious local family with White House aspirations, to scope out this church and its members. As she delves deeper into both cases, she thinks there may be a connection between the two.

Although she’s both attracted to and suspicious of handsome and mysterious Blake, she allows him to blindfold her and take her to their annual meeting where there will be snake handling. She’s not altogether sure he’s not the murderer, and neither is the reader.

My favorite aspect of the writing is the author takes chances. By no means is this a formulaic mystery read. It’s unique in its conception and execution.

 

THAT SPECIAL ONE ~ Hurricane Irma and brownies

TSO Cover 2

What on earth has my new release, THAT SPECIAL ONE, got to do with Hurricane Irma and brownies. Read on and find out…

Last week, with Hurrican Irma bearing down on Miami at something between a category 4 & 5, I sat at my laptop furiously trying to finish final editis before the storm reached Jacksonville. It was a race against time, trying to get my first attempt at a New Adult novella published on Amazon (downloaded) before JEA ran into serious service problems.

Alas, due to the high volumne of downed trees and flooding, the power went out in nearly all of Jacksonville. My next door neighbor was kind enough to run an extension chord from his generator to my refrigerator. That still meant, no lights, no a/c, no TV or audio system, no Wi-Fi, and manual toilet flushing for three days as the temperatures climbed (is that too much info?).

After three days, the power did come back on. I think I must’ve looked and felt much like Jonah had after three days in the belly of the great fish. The upside was, I was able to continue with edits offline…but, still no Wi-Fi. I couldn’t download the novella to Amazon. Finally, the Wi-Fi came back on and I was able to launch THAT SPECIAL ONE.

Where do the brownies come in? I made a batch for my very kind next door neighbor who shared electricity from his generator with me. When I handed him the plate full of brownies, he broke out into a huge smile and said, “I’ll have to pour a glass of milk.”

THAT SPECIAL ONE in a nut shell…

New Adult Contemporary Christian Romantic Suspense

College freshman Ivy Chalmers moved in with her aunt and uncle in Arroyo, Texas. She needed to get away from her alcoholic and weed smoking mother.  Ivy longed for a different life than the revolving-door-men in her mom’s life. Making a one-eighty, she vowed not to make a serious dating commitment unless she knew it would be that really ‘special relationship ‘.

Corey Jones had been the man in his house since age twelve, when his alcoholic dad abandoned him and his mom. Once in a while, his dad showed up trying to extort money from them using threats. Then his blue-haired, self-centered cousin Ava came to live with them and the way she treats his mom enrages him.

Ivy is thrilled when she meets an upper classman from a neighboring college and thinks he might be ‘that guy.’ When she is horribly betrayed, her world is thrown upside-down, and she plunges into a depression.  In a steady and kind of clumsy way, Corey is there for her during her worst moments. But his family is plagued with alcoholism, the life she had with her mom, the life she ran away from. What’s wrong with her that she attracts the wrong guys? As if that weren’t bad enough, there’s an arsonist terrorizing their tiny village.

Purchase on Amazon.

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