Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mystery vs. Thriller -- what's the difference?

In a true mystery novel, the murder or action has already taken place and the rest of the story is devoted to finding out who-done-it and why. Motivation is part of the puzzle; and most of the action takes place in the mind of the protagonist. Often, the villain remains unidentified until the very end, while characters are developed and the lead sleuth gains important psychological insights into all the suspects.

By contrast, a suspense novel is one in which the action or crime is yet to happen. The reader is led to the climax as tension rises continuously. Often the reader knows exactly who is going to perform the anticipated event -- without knowing exactly when, where, or how it will occur.

When in doubt as to how to classify a book -- Mystery or Suspense -- we take our cues from the author’s reputation or the publisher’s recommendation. For example, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson has elements of both mystery and suspense. By applying all the criteria, we have placed this entertaining novel in our Mystery Section. Check it out on your next visit!