A Guide to Mystery and Thriller Novels

October 9, 2018

As a child, I would often play board games with friends and family. My favorite one was Clue, a mystery game where players move from room to room to solve a murder. This is a game of figuring out who did something, with what, and where. The concept of having clues, putting them together, and solving a mystery was very captivating for me. My obsession with Clue foreshadowed my preference for mystery novels.

 

Mystery novels are structured around a secret. The protagonist usually knows what the secret is, and the rest of the novel is dedicated to them gathering clues, trying to pinpoint the villain. Danger is an important element in mysteries as well. The mystery solver will most likely run into some conflict as they get closer to uncovering the culprit. In short, mystery novels have character driven story lines with distinct narrative voices that captivate readers of all ages. If this article is making you itch for a new mystery to solve, then don’t hesitate to choose one of the following best-selling mystery novels.

 

See our entire Mystery collection

  1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
    Sherlock Holmes battles all kinds of evils in this first-person narrative. He goes against social injustices, and that is what motivates him to solve mysteries.
     

  2. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
    This mystery takes place in San Francisco, 1930s, and is told in the third person. Sam Spade is a private detective who works in a partnership with Miles Archer, who is soon shot dead. Spade is the first suspect.
     

  3. Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe
    Edgar Allan Poe’s darkly themed tales are compiled into a collection for those who love old timey mystery and suspense.
     

  4. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
    This detective novel features a modern police officer’s investigation into the alleged crimes of King Richard III of England. In 1990, this novel was voted number 1 in the Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time list, compiled by the British Crime Writers’ Association.
     

  5. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
    A prosecutor is charged with the murder of his colleague, with extensive evidence against him. What will happen next? This novel begins with a bang, and continues that way throughout.

While mystery novels can exercise and intrigue the mind, thriller novels will keep you just as fascinated with their page-turning power. An exceptional thriller will grab you by the throat in the first few chapters, creating an atmosphere of suspense and drama. Mystery novels can have the same feel as thrillers sometimes, as they both tend to utilize dark themes. However, even though mystery and thrillers have things in common, one sneaky aspect sets them apart. Mystery novels focus on the protagonist solving a crime after it has been committed. Thriller novels detail a crime before or during the time it’s being committed. A good thriller novel will remain with you long after you’ve finished reading it. Below is a list of 5 bestselling thriller novels.

 

See our entire Thriller collection

  1. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
    Sporting political, anarchical, and terrorism themes, this novel follows a spy who is working for an unnamed country. Set in London 1886, it will take you to a different era, while remaining relevant with its themes.
     

  2. The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
    This political thriller is about the son of a prominent US political family who is brainwashed into being an assassin for a Communist conspiracy. It is considered a classic in the political thriller genre. (currently out of stock)
     

  3. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
    This novel depicts a soviet submarine captain as he goes rogue with his country’s ballistic missile submarine, called Red October. Taking place during the Cold War, this is a coming of age thriller that features a good versus evil theme.
     

  4. Killing Floor by Lee Child
    Shortly after getting off a Greyhound bus in Georgia, Jack Reacher is arrested for murder on the orders of a local sheriff. Reacher learns that the murdered man is his brother, and the plot thickens from there. This thriller novel won the Anthony Award and Barry Award for best first novel.
     

  5. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
    This is a combination novel that features elements of mystery and thriller. A murder in the Louvre Museum in Paris drives the main characters into a battle between two religious organizations.

There are a few plot distinctions that separate mystery and thriller novels. Mystery novels often include a confuddling crime, a motivated investigator, a hidden villain, a cover up, a conundrum of clues, a discovery, and lastly, an identification of the killer. This seemingly simple formula for a mystery novel moves to confront truth and/or justice. On the other hand, a thriller novel takes a different approach. Readers can expect a focus on fear. This genre takes the world we live in and poses the threat of the unknown. In a thriller, there is a crime that is about to be committed, the perpetrator is known, and the hero follows an action-packed road to catching them. Both genres create a ‘really there’ feeling for readers. Characters feel like friends and settings feel like home. Whichever genre is your favorite, you really cannot go wrong with a mystery or a thriller. Grab your magnifying glass or jump in the car for a high-speed chase with one of the bestselling books listed above!

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