Wednesday, December 16, 2009


How many of us read both mysteries and thrillers with equal enjoyment? What’s the difference? Well, according to International Thriller Writers, a thriller is characterized by "the sudden rush of emotions, the excitement, sense of suspense, apprehension, and exhilaration that drive the narrative, sometimes subtly with peaks and lulls, sometimes at a constant, breakneck pace."

From a mystery, in books, is defined as “mysterious, unresolved and unexplainable circumstances with which the hero or heroine comes in contact. This can be anything from the occult realms, strange disappearances, unexplainable sudden affluence or sudden monetary loss, psychological distortions, property destroyed or desecrated without known reason, suicide when no suicide seemed feasible, and of course, murder.”

Those may, at first, seem very disparate, but any of the circumstances in a mystery can result in a thriller’s “sudden rush of emotions” and, while some cozy mysteries may not proceed at a “constant, breakneck pace,” most mysteries have a sense of apprehension and suspense. Without it, why would we worry about who dunnit?

Who are your favourite mystery and thriller writers – and who would you consider a crossover author?


K.M. Weiland said...

I'm actually not much of a genre reader, but I tend to enjoy thrillers more than mysteries. The stakes often seem higher in thrillers and the end result seems to matter more.

Anonymous said...

Call them cozies or amateur sleuth novels, I much prefer mysteries. For me, plot comes in third after characters and setting.

I like Carolyn Wheat's distinctions set forth in her book "How To Write Killer Fiction."

Among other things, she says: "The central problem of the mystery is not 'who killed X' but who covered up the killing of X, and how did he succeed in creating the illusion that he did not kill X."

She calls suspense/thriller "a visceral experience ... We read it, not to be entertained by a detective sifting through the clues of a past murder, but to grit our teeth and bite our nails as our hero dodges bullets and evades danger in the present."

Pat Browning