Posted in Spotlight On!

Spotlight On: Mystery!

This month, the spotlight is on: Mystery!

At base, a Mystery is pretty easy to define.  Crime + Investigation + Solution = Mystery.  In a mystery novel, a crime is committed, someone investigates the crime, the who, why, and what of the crime is solved.  There are endless variations on this basic theme, and that’s where we get the overwhelming array of choice in the mystery genre.  The basic framework is the same, but the possibilities for tone, theme, and main character are just about endless.

Classic detectives are grade-A spoof fodder, too.
Classic detectives are grade-A spoof fodder, too.

There are private investigators, amateur sleuths, police procedurals, and detectives.  There are dark, gritty noir mysteries and light, gentle mysteries.  There are theme mysteries of every sort you can imagine–knitting, baking, catering, holidays, crossword puzzles, antiquing, golf, NASCAR.

swapping paint
Yes, really.

As you can see, there are LOTS of different kinds of mysteries out there.  Sometimes the terminology we throw around can get a little confusing.  Here at CPL, for example, our mystery fans seem to fall into three broad categories, as far as I can tell.  Here are a few explanations of different kinds of mystery, as well as authors for each subgenre.

Police Procedural Fans.  These readers are the ones who like detectives, private investigators, or complete police teams solving a crime.  Think CSI, or the first half-hour of a Law & Order episode.  Very realistic, very case-oriented, with likeable good guys within a force or institution working to bring a criminal to justice.   Henning Mankell, Elizabeth George, Ruth Rendell, and Donna Leon are just a few examples.

It's what a police procedural is all about.
It’s what a police procedural is all about.

Cozy Mystery Fans.  These readers comprise the biggest group at our library, I’d say.  A cozy mystery is the sort where there’s not too much bad language, sex, or violence, and if there is a murder it happens off-screen.  The main character is usually an amateur detective.  Cozies usually have quite a bit of humor, too.  Classic mystery writers like Agatha Christie fall into this category, as do Susan Wittig Albert, Alexander McCall Smith, Joanne Fluke, Carola Dunn, and M.C. Beaton.  See the excellent, brilliantly extensive Cozy-Mystery website for every kind of softboiled mystery you can imagine!

Cabot Cove's answer to Miss Marple, and a wonderful example of a cozy mystery.
Cabot Cove’s answer to Miss Marple, and a wonderful example of a cozy mystery.

Hardboiled Fans.  Bring on the noir-y atmosphere!  Tough, streetwise, often troubled loners solve grisly crimes in bleak locations.  Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are the grandaddies of this type of mystery.  Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books are good examples of more modern hardboiled mysteries.  Other examples include Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Walter Mosley, Dennis Lehane, and Lawrence Block, among many many others.

Here is Bogart.  He is Hardboiled.  It cannot be expressed  more plainly than that.
Here is Bogart. He is Hardboiled. It cannot be expressed more plainly than that.

 No matter what sort of mystery you like, we’ve got you covered!  Come on down to the library for bookmarks, book lists, and as many different kinds of mysteries as we can fit on our display space!

Have fun sleuthing, mystery fans.  Have a present:

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The Camden Public Library brings people together to Read, Connect, and Discover. Here at the CPL Readers Corner Blog, our librarians offer book suggestions, book reviews, read-alikes, and more! Discover new reads, Connect with librarians and other readers, and Read a great book!

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