I’ve almost finished a draft of my cozy. I finished roughing my last scene today. Tomorrow I’m going to draft a new opening scene. As I’ve been writing my cozy, I’ve also been reading a lot of mysteries and wondering how they would be categorized. Every list that I’ve found has differed slightly but compiling them has given me this:
A caper is a humorous story. Depending on the narrator, the story may involve a bumbling amateur detective or a thief who just can’t get it right. Think the Pink Panther or M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin mysteries.
A cozy detective is also an amateur. The murder occurs off-scene and things aren’t too gory or graphic. Some definitions place cozy myteries in small towns. The first noteworthy cozy author was Agatha Christie.
Until I started reading about sub-genre, I considered these books cozies. They may feature a cat or dog that is instrumental in solving the mystery. Think the Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown books. The story may also involve a knitting circle, book shop, or inn.
The hardboiled detective story invovles . . . a hardboiled, professional private eye. The crime is gruesome and the detective is often fighting an emotional battle of their own. Think the Robert Galbraith mysteries written by J.K. Rowling.
These mysteries are a lot like the hardboiled detective stories but less gory and much more humorous.
This category can overlap with any of the others but the stories are set in the past. The Lady Sherlock books by Sherry Thomas fall into this category.
Think film noir for this category – atmospheric black and white with a gumshoe in a trench coat. For this category familiarize yourself with classics like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
A ghost or some type of magic is involved in a paranormal mystery. I’ve read books with characters casting spells via the cakes they bake as well as friendly ghosts.
Forensics and other police procedures are critical in solving the crime.
Suspence stories can be pretty atmospheric but they often have a slow build. You know something is wrong but not what are how serious it will become. Think When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole or The Safe Place by Anna Downes.
Add a dash of romance and you have romantic suspence. The grand-dame of this category is Mary Higgins Clark.
A thriller is a tense, fast paced story. Think Lucy Foley’s The Guest List.
This category is nonfiction but for all intents and purposes these books read like fictional mysteries. There is a crime and real investigators struggle to solve it. Think Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me.
Clearly you can have overlap such as a procedural or thriller set in the past. Where do your favorite mysteries fit into these categories.