Edgar Allan Poe introduced the world to the mystery detective stories with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Purloined Letter” which all featured his detective C. Auguste Dupin.
Alexandre Dumas gave the world The Count of Monte Cristo which has been considered by many to be the first true thriller book.
Of course, thousands of novels could be considered mystery, thriller or something in between. The question is which would you prefer?
When I was younger, I think for me, mystery was the biggest appeal. Following the detective on his journey through the crime world until finally at the very end, the killer or guilty party is revealed.
Oh the possibilities.
I thought it was that guy!
Man, I had no idea!
I have to read it again to see the set-up. It totally fooled me!
Yes, the mystery novel is truly remarkable. After all, every novel is a mystery until you read it all the way through based on the idea that it must be a mystery since you have no idea what happens.
Now then, there is the thriller. Thrillers all seem to have an element of mystery but unlike mysteries where the criminal or perpetrator of a crime is not revealed until the ending, the the thriller also gives you insight into the criminal world. In this way, we see the detective or hero in action, but we also get to see the juicy details of the plotting and scheming of the criminal as well.
Nowadays in my writing and reading, I must say I like the thriller much better. I don't get as much of a bang as I once did out of seeing who the killer is in the end. It can be interesting and surprising but eh. I don't feel like I know the killer that well really.
However with the thriller, I feel like I know protagonist and antagonist very well and this I very much enjoy. My own book Jack Little, is definitely more of a thriller. Will Hodge loses his business at the hands of a conman but he also finds the conman dead along with all of his merchandise he lost to the man and lots of other merchandise as well. He sells the goods off but starts looking around for other things to steal...at a five fingered discount.
As you can guess, the book is more about the situations Will finds himself getting into when he is stealing the items and of course his own wrestling match with the moral implications of what he's doing. So I believe it is definitely a thriller. And I just have to love this type of suspenseful writing.
A thriller can even put you on the side of the antagonist and hope he pulls off his wrong deed. It's funny and almost kind of sick but it just appeals to human nature. Even if the perpetrator's crime is horrible, we still hope they get through whatever problem they are having because we all hate problems and have to work through them on a daily basis. So in a sense, we have been there even if for different reasons. So a thriller can give us a much better look at both sides and of the story as a whole. Perhaps even the villain had a good reason for doing what he did even if he is a bit...off.
Now don't get me wrong. I still enjoy a good mystery. I have not lost my love for the genre. It's just that the crime thriller is my favorite. I still have plenty of mysteries on my shelf and they will remain there.
But writing a mystery?
I cannot say I have ever really written a straight up mystery. My book certainly is not one and I doubt if any of my short stories could be called that either. I love writing about crime and well, criminals. Law enforcement is always out there as a threat to them, but many times they appear to the criminals as little more than interrupters. The criminals would much rather rip each other off and steal from one another than bring the law in at any cost. They have their own little seedy world and as a writer I have to appreciate that by proxy.
Will I ever write a mystery? Maybe. I never rule anything out. But I read a long time ago that if a writer wants to be successful, they must pick their favorite genre and explore that for most of their career. I can always branch out later. And I must say it has helped. I picked thriller at first and eventually made my way around to crime thriller. I find it so much more interesting than a lot of other types of thrillers although I like most of the others, too. I feel that I chose correctly.
So what do you think?