Posted by: nancycurteman | July 14, 2010

7 Characteristics of Today’s Modern Mystery Novels

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Crime and suspense fiction has changed a great deal over the last twenty-five years. The old traditions are still present but the stifling constraints of the past have been shattered. Here are some elements that will ensure a mystery writer’s novel will appeal to a modern audience.

  1. Private eyes are in vogue again. Female detectives and sleuths are extremely popular. Consider Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone.
  2. Historical mysteries have risen in popularity as have supernatural tales.  P.N. Elrodd’s Dark Sleep is an example of an historical mystery. A Navajo vampire is the protagonist in David Thurlo’s supernatural tales.
  3. Sleuths of various ethnicity and professions, some unrelated to police work, abound in bookstores. Robert O. Greer’s  black bail-bondsman and reluctant sleuth, C.J. Floyd, solves crimes in The Devil’s Hatband.
  4. Social, sexual, religious and political issues are being explored openly in ways never done before.
  5. Use of some profanity and vernacular dialog is now a standard in most mystery writing, even in the traditional cozy.
  6. Realistic descriptions of murder scenes have replaced antiseptic, bloodless, one-bullet death scenes.
  7. Mysteries laced with humor have risen in popularity. Consider Janet Evanovich’s bungling, inept heroine, Stephanie Plum.

A mystery writer should sample several types of modern mysteries to get a good feel for what sells in today’s market.

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Responses

  1. #6 is good, because one of my (unfinshed as usual) books starts out at the crime scene with brains splattered all over the wall. :-|

  2. Janet Evanovich sat at her desk, deciding who to select as a central character for her soon-to-be bestselling series.

    Greta Grape? No.
    Betty Banana? Not quite
    Olive Orange? Absolutely NOT.

    Little Jack Horner, over in the corner stuck his hand into a Christmas pie and, using his thumb, pulled out a Plum

    Distracted by Jack, Janet looked over, saw the Plum and recognized her heroine at once.

    Stephanie Plum!!!

    BTW: Stephanie and Janet are on my nightstand at the moment. Great read before lights out.

    • Very interesting info about Stephanie’s name. This strategy certainly sounds like Evanovich. She is really a carefree, hilarious writer.

  3. You forget to mention James McShane’s Tara Kane, P.I.

    Now there’s a plug if ever there was one.

    Love Stephanie Plum to bits.

    • I think Tara Kane, P.I. will someday be on everyone’s lips.

  4. I have read everything Sue Grafton has written. I do prefer a sense of humor in any writing. I don’t mean disrespectful humor, just looking at the lighter side of situations, when appropriate.

    I also like suspense, and mysteries that include suspense provide me a double dip of reading pleasure.

    Thank you for sharing these words. Forgive me for not having read “about”. This I shall do right now.

    I read it. I was so hoping you would be a writer and I see you are a writer, a mystery writer. I shall read Mystery in a Teacup.

  5. Mystery in a Teacup is not published as yet however, it is in the hands of a publisher. I’m hoping for an early publication date. I loved writing it. I hope you’ll like reading it.

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  17. This gave me great direction thank you
    Working on my mystery “The Painter`s Daughters” that starts out “Once upon a time…”

    • Amber, So glad my blog post was helpful to to. “The Painter’s Daughters” sounds interesting. I love mysteries. Let me know when it’s published.


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