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Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Discussion: Mystery vs Thriller Suspense

The Monday Discussion is late today because I have been preparing for this week's big ARRT Crime Fiction Genre study meeting during which we will take the HUGE leap from Mystery to the other crime genres.

As you can see from the assignment, we are beginning with a few different Thriller subgenres.  But during the beginning of the meeting, I am charged with the task of making this group of seasoned librarians care about the small [but as I will argue key] differences in how mystery and thriller/suspense appeal to readers.

Now being a part of what promises to be a lively discussion is a membership benefit of joining ARRT, but I would like to include as many opinions as possible in our conversation.

So for today's Monday Discussion, I want to ask all of you, what do you see as the key appeal differences when it comes to readers between books we call "mystery" and those that we call "thriller" or "suspense?"

I usually go first on these discussions, but I have said much on this topic over the years on this blog; in fact, here is one short post on that topic from 2 years ago.  But I already know what I think.  As the facilitator of this discussion, I want to know what others think-- even if your answer is you don't think the distinction is worth making.

I want to make sure our discussion on Thursday includes as wide a range of thoughts and opinions as possible. The more points of view the better; especially if they are diametrically opposed points of view.

Now, to be fair, I will add one new thing before I open the floor.  Last week, on Fiction-L [the RA listerv] there was this post by Stacy Alesi on the 16 differences between mystery and thrillers/suspense. I don't think I agree with every single point she makes, but the essence of what she is getting at is good.  And, it is a great way for me to solicit feedback from all of you.

So, for today's Monday Discussion, tell me what you see as the differences between mystery and thrillers/suspense.

For past Monday Discussions, click here


Tara BPLteen said...

I think the key difference lies in the author's intent. In a mystery, the author leads the reader through the clues so that the reader can solve the crime right along with the protagonist or investigator. (Unless the author is Arthur Conan Doyle, in which case, the intent is to illustrate the brilliance of the protagonist and "sucks to be you" if you can't see the clues he does.) In suspense/thriller, the author's intention is to make the reader experience the crime - the fear, the anticipation, the terrifying uncertainty. There may be elements of mystery; the victim may be trying to deduce why they are being chased, held captive, whatever, but the focus is on the experience, not the investigation.

John BPL RA said...

I find that traditional mysteries still tend to fit the original "Sherlock Holmes Template" as I like to call it, of a detective/hero solving a crime. It's a Victorian literary device. Thrillers tend to fit the model set up in the 20th century and don't usually have a puzzle to solve. The pace is faster, less intellectual and the characters are in a higher degree of danger. Persoanlly, I've always felt that the real crime masters were writers like Donald Westlake and Frederick Forsyth who could blend the two and go beyond the limits of genre expectations.