Mysteries come in many different flavors, from cozies to hard-boiled detectives.
So what unites all these disparate plots under one umbrella?
All mysteries share 3 things in common
- A secret, unknown to both protagonist and reader, that poses a story question
- A protagonist in search of an answer to that story question
- Clues to allow an alert reader to solve the mystery
In order to earn its spot on the Mystery Shelf, a book must have each of these three elements.
Books that have 1 or 2 of the elements may have elements of mystery to them but should be categorized separately (i.e. Romance with mystery elements, or Thriller with mystery elements).
A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
✓ A secret: Who killed Lawrence Fife?
✓ A protagonist: Kinsey Millhone, a private investigator
✓ Clues: the allergy pills, the dead dog, the tax records
✓ A Mystery
✓ A secret: What happened to the Heart of the Ocean?
❌ A protagonist: At first it seems like Brock Lovett may be the protagonist, but it’s actually Rose (and she knows the answer)
❌ Clues: There are no clues about the necklace’s whereabouts