“Should the Horizons of the Mystery Genre by Expanded?” by author Marie Watts



Mysteries are big business.  In fact, the mystery/crime genre is the second highest moneymaker behind romance novels.  But tell an agent you wrote a mystery, and the first thing she asks is, “Where’s the dead body?”  But what if there are no dead bodies?  Why can’t something be a mystery without it?

According to the Author Learning Center, a mystery is a novel “centered around a crime (usually a murder) where the protagonist is an investigator who must uncover and follow various clues, find suspects, and ultimately identify the criminal and bring justice.”

And why is murder essential?  Apparently, the stakes aren’t high enough unless death is involved.  The problem these days is that murder is so ubiquitous that many writers have upped the corpse count by the use of serial killers.

Other crimes can indeed involve serious risks if there is no success.  For instance, my latest novel, The Cause Lives:  Warriors for Equal Rights, features federal investigators from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who investigate workplace crimes such as sexual harassment and discrimination, bringing the perpetrators to justice.

And the stakes are high; fear of job failure and being haunted by letting a sexual predator go free are but a few of the nightmares suffered by discrimination investigators.  I should know, I worked in the field for nearly thirty years.  And, all the while, the characters are dealing with their personal lives.  Despite the cat and mouse games with deep-pocket companies and the hunt for clues using old-fashioned detective work, the editor suggested it be labeled as “upmarket fiction.”

My book isn’t the only one with this problem.  Take The Art Forger, by B. A. Shapiro, for instance.  The book was classified as a literary thriller when it had all the ingredients of a good mystery- a crime-clues-and the criminal uncovered- except for the dead body.  Even the Boston Globe made note that the novel was “misleadingly categorized.”

How many intriguing mysteries are readers missing out on because the round manuscript doesn’t fit nicely into the square genre box?



https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2012/10/21/book-review-the-art-forger-shapiro/DIfw2DlBiZdRv9sMHi8sgJ/story.html retrieved May 15, 2019.

https://www.authorlearningcenter.com/writing/i-have-an-idea/w/choosing-your-topic/1980/genre-basics—mystery—article retrieved May 15, 2019.

https://bookstr.com/article/book-genres-that-make-the-most-money/ retrieved May 15, 2019.

https://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/how-to-write-a-mystery.html retrieved May 15, 2019.

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