Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mystery or Romantic Suspense?

What is the difference between a mystery and a romantic suspense? I used to know the answer - if the mystery was predominant, that's what it was, but if there was a predominant romance and there was a mystery, it was romantic suspense.

But now I am not so sure.

I've come to the conclusion that there is a more subtle difference and it has nothing to do with romance.

In a mystery, there is a crime (usually a murder of one degree of heinousness or another - depending on whether it is a cozy mystery or a gritty crime novel) and throughout the course of the book, characters and clues are both introduced and the saavy reader can follow them to discover the criminal, if she is smart enough.

In a suspense however (and I'm just coming off of a reading binge of 2) there are no clues as to the bad guy. The bad guy all too often is utterly unknown until the denoument in which he is captured/killed/discovered, etc. We do know the bad guy - just not his identity. We may even be in his point of view on some occasions. However, who he is in regards to the heroine is a mystery.

The follow-the-clues aspect seems to be either absent or minor in an RS. There may be an investigation - there was a significant one in Lisa Gardner's HIDE - but it doesn't actually drop hints as to who the killer is. In fact, there were 2 bad guys in HIDE, neither one of which was the reader able to divine in advance. We KNEW that there were 2 bad guys and even knew who they were and expected the ending to be one of the 2 of them. However, the discovery of the two in their current guises were utterly unpredictable.

I'm not saying this is a BAD thing. Or a GOOD thing. I think it is for different reader's tastes. Perhaps some prefer the puzzle of a good mystery with clues laid out that will point to the correct villain. Or some prefer the suspense factor that gives them the little frission of fear that they like, rather than the puzzle factor.

But what about the romance? I have found that as more and more women get into mystery I've discovered more and more romantic plot lines in those mysteries.

And the notion I once heard that the other difference is that in mysteries the heroine is usually NOT the one against whom the crime was perpetrated, but she was the active detective (whether amature or pro). In an RS, the heroine was the direct victim. That line seems to be blurring too.

Just as romance genres are melding it appears that so, too, are mysteries and romantic suspense.

Hear Hear! Something for everyone.

What do you think?

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