Mystery Genre: Elements, Subgenres & Examples in Literature

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A prominent genre of literature, mystery fiction is a breathtaking genre where the story’s main theme is ”mystery” and the characters pushing every boundary to resolve it.

Readers love reading mystery fiction, as it allows them to play the part of a detective and to participate in solving the mystery with the help of clues plotted in the story.

Related: 7 Best Crime and Detective Novels

What is Mystery Genre?

One of the most popular genres, mystery fiction is also called detective fiction. The story plot of mystery genre books revolves around a huge mystery that needs to be solved by the protagonist (main character). 

These mysterious stories start with the main character or a detective following the clues to solve a crime and end with finding the culprit, revealing the whole conspiracy, solving the crime, or reaching a satisfying answer.

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Elements of Mystery Fiction-

  • Crime
  • Clues
  • Suspects
  • Victims
  • Evidence
  • Problems
  • Witnesses
  • Murder
  • Detectives
  • Secrets

Related: 101 Mystery Words List

3 Subgenres of Mystery Fiction-

  • Detective fiction- This subgenre of mystery and crime fiction follows the plot of a detective investigating a crime or solving a murder mystery case.
  • Cozy mystery- The plot of cozy mystery novels stays away from violence, suspense, or mature intimate writing and the detective of the story often solves the case with their intellect rather than following typical police procedures.
  • Police procedural- A member of the police team often presented as the protagonist or a detective solves the case following typical police procedural.

Pro writing tips- Read the works of legendary mystery fiction writer Agatha Christie to develop a sense of weaving a mystery plot.

mystery genre elements subgenres and examples in literature

Examples of Mystery Genre Novels-

  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

A mystery thriller and a detective fiction novel by Dan Brown start with the murder of the curator of a museum in Paris.

The mystery begins when the police discovered the body of the curator covered in baffling symbols and then the male protagonist of the story Robert Langdon, a professor of symbology at Harvard was called to decipher the secret message that the curator of the Louvre museum has left before his death.

While deciphering the secret codes Langdon discovers a much bigger secret hidden in the works of Leonardo the Vinci works along with a secret society which members include Isaac Newton, Da Vinci, Victor Hugo and a historical secret that could alter the religious history of mankind.

  • A Song for the Dark Times By Ian Rankin
best police procedural novels

This police procedural novel’s plot revolves around the protagonist John Rebus who has been retired from the Scottish police but one day when his daughter Samantha calls him and told that his husband is missing for two days.

Rebus left his flat and starts his investigation and eventually Samantha’s husband is found dead not far from the commune where Samantha has recently taken a lover.

Rebus knows with his experience very well that Samantha will be the prime suspect.

Rebus wasn’t there for his daughter in the past and has failed as a father because of his job and duties, but now her daughter needed him more than ever.

More Examples-

  • The Hound of the Baskerville by Arthur Conan Doyle

  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo

  • And Then There Were Non by Agatha Christie

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

  • My Sisters Grave by Robert Dugoni

Watch the below informative video by Ted-Ed on how Agatha Christie became a great mystery writer.

Neel Rana

About the Author- Neel Rana is a YA short story author, flash fiction writer, literary enthusiast and the founder of Pandora Post. Neel holds a degree in BA Honours in English Literature and has been writing since 2017. Neel’s magnum opus YA short storybook, “The Drunken Ghost” has been well received by the readers.