Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Difference among Mystyery, Thriller and Suspense?

Back when Marce hosted Thrill Week (see here), I found that I couldn't quite distinguish the differences among these genre: mystery, thriller and suspense.

I came across this article today that talked about it. What do you think of the explanation? In short, this is the summary (copy/paste from the article):

mystery: the main character is occupied in tracking down the truth about an event, usually a murder. If the protagonist is in any danger, it is usually moderate, and becomes a problem only as the detective approaches the truth.

thriller: the protagonist is in danger from the outset.

suspense: the main character may become aware of danger only gradually. In a mystery, the reader is exposed to the same information as the detective, but in a suspense story, the reader is aware of things unknown to the protagonist. The reader sees the bad guy plant the bomb, and then suffers the suspense of wondering when or if it will explode.

Does that help you? 


  1. Mystery for me has always been who dunnit so to speak.

    Thriller is the edge of your seat with action around mystery and usually lots surrounding the story.

    Suspense - I think that is a great description.

    Overall it is hard to still distinguish as some books have a little of all.

  2. Hate to say, but that definition only seems to confuse me. I go by my own definition, which may or may not be the same as what the article says. For me, a mystery is completely constructed around a mysterious event, and the goal of the book is the hunt for the answer to the event. Eg: Nancy Drew, a bunch of cozy mysteries etc.

    A suspense half revolves around a mysterious event and half around the characters and their actions. I usually see suspense books are more 'deep' than mysteries. Still Missing, etc.

    A thriller is anything that leaves me at the edge of my seat. They are usually fast-paced. It may feature mysteries, murders, crimes, or none of those. Dan Brown books (though I would also categorize these as suspense).

    In the end, I just let my experience dictate the genre.

  3. @Marce - I know it's so hard to distinguish! But it really doesn't matter I guess as long as it's a good book :)

    @Aths - "let your experience dictate the genre" - that's a good way to put it!

  4. I think they often overlap, but can't really disagree with the descriptions.