Mystery is a genre rich in variety, encompassing a diverse range of subgenres that offer authors a vast spectrum of fiction writing opportunities.
From classic detective stories to psychological thrillers, there is a subgenre for every taste and style.
As an aspiring author, understanding and exploring these subgenres can be instrumental in finding a niche that resonates with your writing style and interests.
By delving into the different aspects of the mystery genre, you will not only have a more comprehensive understanding of the genre’s characteristics but also be able to identify the subgenre that aligns with your creative vision.
This list of mystery subgenres will help you find the perfect fit for your next fiction project:
- Classic Detective: Originating in the mid-19th century, it primarily features a skilled investigator who solves a crime that others cannot.
- Hard-Boiled: This subgenre is characterized by a tough, cynical detective, graphic violence, and moral ambiguity.
- Noir: Noir mysteries often deal with crime, corruption, and the seedy underworld, with a morally ambiguous protagonist.
- Cozy Mystery: A subgenre where sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, often set in small, socially intimate communities.
- Amateur Sleuth: This subgenre involves a protagonist with no formal connection to law enforcement who solves mysteries.
- Police Procedural: These stories focus on a team of professionals solving crimes using procedures and techniques utilized by police.
- Forensic: This subgenre centers around the scientific methods used to solve crimes, often with a protagonist who is a medical examiner or forensic pathologist.
- Legal Thriller: This subgenre focuses on lawyers and their involvement in major crimes and situations, highlighting courtroom scenes and legal procedures.
- Culinary Mystery: A subgenre where crimes, often murder, are set in culinary businesses or environments, often featuring recipes.
- Paranormal Mystery: This subgenre involves mysteries where supernatural or fantasy elements play a major role.
- Historical Mystery: Set in a significant, recognizable period of history, with the main character solving crimes using the means available at the time.
- Locked Room: This subgenre involves a crime, usually murder, that is seemingly impossible to commit.
- Capery: A subgenre where the main characters are criminals planning or executing a major theft or elaborate scam.
- Spy Thriller: This subgenre usually involves espionage, action, international settings, and political intrigue.
- Inverted Detective: Unlike traditional mysteries, the criminal’s identity is revealed at the beginning, and the story follows the detective’s efforts to prove their guilt.
- Procedural: Focuses on the detailed, step-by-step procedures that investigators use to solve crimes.
- Woman Sleuths: This subgenre features a woman as the main sleuth, providing a female perspective to the mystery.
- Techno-Thriller: These mysteries combine technical details about technology and the tension and excitement of a thriller.
- Supernatural Mystery: Involves cases that are solved through supernatural means, such as magic, witches, ghosts, or werewolves.
- Political Thriller: These mysteries are set against the backdrop of a political power struggle.
- Romantic Suspense: A genre blending mystery and romance, where the protagonist must navigate romantic entanglements while solving a mystery.
- Gothic Mystery: Combines elements of horror, romance, and mystery, often set in a haunted or eerie castle or mansion.
- Animal Mystery: This subgenre involves animals as key characters, often as sleuths themselves or companions to the detective.
- Medical Mystery: Centers around disease, medical science, or biotechnology, with doctors or medical researchers as the main characters.
- Eco-Thriller: These mysteries involve environmental threats, such as pollution, deforestation, or biological weapons.
- Comic Mystery: This subgenre features humor and fun, often featuring quirky characters and hilarious situations.
- Military Thriller: This subgenre is set in a military setting with a high degree of suspense, tension, and action.
- Psychological Thriller: This subgenre focuses on the unstable psychological state of the characters.
- Nautical Mystery: These mysteries take place at sea, often on ships, and involve seafaring dangers or maritime crime.
- Academic Mystery: Set in an academic setting such as a university or school, with academics or students as detectives.
- International Mystery & Crime: Set in international locations, dealing with crimes that cross international borders.
- Private Investigators: The main character is a professional private investigator who solves crimes for clients.
- True Crime: This subgenre involves real-life crime stories, including criminal cases and forensic procedures.
- Ethnic Detectives: Featuring detectives of diverse ethnicity, bringing cultural aspects into the plot.
- LGBT Mystery: Featuring gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender characters as the protagonist.
- Religious Mystery: Involves religious institutions, clergy, or religious symbols in the mystery.
- Sociological Mystery: Deals with a society’s structures and issues within the plot of a mystery.
- Western Mystery: Combines the traditional Western setting with a mystery that the protagonist must solve.
- Juvenile Mystery: Tailored towards younger audiences, often featuring young detectives solving age-appropriate mysteries.
- Seniors Sleuths: Features elderly characters solving mysteries, often set in retirement communities.
- Steampunk Mystery: Combines elements of the steampunk genre with a mystery plot, often set in Victorian era with advanced steam-powered technology.
- Holiday Mystery: Mysteries centered around holidays, with the plot often tying in to the holiday theme.
- Disability Sleuths: Features detectives with disabilities, who use their unique perspectives to solve crimes.
- Native American Mystery: Involves Native American characters, settings, or themes.
- Futuristic Mystery: Set in the future, featuring advanced technology, alternative societies, or futuristic concepts.
- Craft Mystery: Centers around crafting hobbies or professions, often with instructions or patterns included.
- Asian Detective: The protagonist is of Asian descent or the setting is in Asia.
- Nordic Noir: A mystery subgenre featuring crime fiction written from a Scandinavian point of view.
- Sports Mystery: Involves sports or athletes, with the plot revolving around a crime related to sports.
- Paranormal Romance Mystery: Combines elements of paranormal romance with a mysterious plot.
- Archaeological Mystery: The main character is an archaeologist, and the mystery often involves ancient artifacts or sites.
- Business Mystery: Set in a corporate or business setting, where the protagonist often must solve a crime related to business.
- Cyber Crime: Focuses on crimes committed via the Internet or computers.
- Literary Mystery: These mysteries place a high value on quality writing and complex, thoughtful themes.
- Screwball Mystery: A lighter mystery subgenre that features a farcical, comedic plot.
- Farm Mystery: The setting is a farm, and the crimes are often related to farming or rural life.
- Space Mystery: The setting is in space, often involving crime on a spaceship or space station.
- Gangster Mystery: Involves organized crime, mafia, or gangster characters.
- Zoo Mystery: Set in a zoo or involving animals, with the protagonist often working at a zoo.
- Climate Fiction Mystery: This subgenre combines elements of climate fiction (cli-fi) with a mystery plot.
When you’re reading through the above list of mystery subgenres, why not make a shortlist of the five or ten that you find most interesting and appealing?
You can then do further research on the subgenres on your shortlist to decide which you want to commit to for a full project, such as a short story, novella, or even a full novel.
How to respect the nuances of your chosen mystery subgenre
Finding a subgenre of mystery that excites and inspires you as a writer is only the first piece of the puzzle.
Next, it’s time to learn how to respect the nuances and unique elements ts of your chosen subgenre, so that your writing is a natural fit.
1. Adherence to Conventions: Respect the established conventions of your chosen subgenre, as they form the foundation of reader expectations and provide a sense of familiarity.
2. Authentic Characters: Create characters that align with the norms of your subgenre, ensuring that they possess the attributes and motivations typical of protagonists and antagonists within that subgenre.
3. Maintain Suspense: Maintain a sense of suspense and intrigue throughout your story, as this is a fundamental element of the mystery genre, regardless of subgenre.
4. Develop Setting: Pay attention to the setting of your story, as each subgenre often has a preferred setting, whether it’s a small town for cozy mysteries or an urban environment for noir mysteries.
5. Resolve Mysteries: Ensure that your story provides a satisfying resolution to the central mystery, as readers expect a sense of closure and resolution at the conclusion of a mystery novel.
Are you ready to get started writing mystery subgenre fiction?
Exploring the various subgenres of the mystery genre is an exciting journey that offers a wealth of creative possibilities to pursue in your fiction writing practice.
It allows you to find the perfect niche that resonates with your writing style and interests.
However, it is essential to balance exploration with action.
Set yourself a deadline to select a subgenre and start writing your next fictional tale.
Your journey through the different mystery subgenres will enrich your writing, provide inspiration, and ultimately lead to a more engaging and authentic story.
So, enjoy the exploration, but remember to channel your newfound knowledge into your writing.
The only way to truly know if you enjoy writing a specific subgenre of mystery fiction is to get hands-on. Check out our writing prompts specifically for mystery.
Don’t let your potential love for a mystery subgenre remain a mystery that you never solve.