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The Mystery Genre Essay

The mystery fiction attracts many readers because of the plot richness and strong emotions evoked while reading mystery stories. The vividness of a mystery story and the effectiveness of unexpected finales depend on the author’s talent. The prominent masters of the American mystery fiction are Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Flannery O’Connor.

Dashiell Hammett is the founder of mystery fiction as a genre. Thus, the writer developed characteristic features of the hard-boiled fiction as well as the principles of developing the mystery story which are followed by many writers even today (Hammett, 2001). Raymond Chandler is also the follower of Hammett.

Chandler is the prominent detective fiction writer who contributed to the further development of a genre while creating a range of crime stories. Philip Marlowe, the protagonist of Chandler’s many stories, is the favourite character of many readers who prefer mystery stories because he embodies the traditional vision of a detective (Chandler, 2001).

It is also important to pay attention to the works by Flannery O’Connor as the famous female author who created the wonderful world of mystery in her short stories. O’Connor’s story “The Comforts of Home” is a good example of the author’s use of the Gothic elements, grotesque, and ethical questions in the mystery story (O’Connor, 2001). These three authors are the real masters of the American mystery fiction who stated the main principles of the genre.

A good mystery story should contain several important elements in order to attract and even grab the readers’ attention. These elements are a perfect mystery which is associated with the crime, a brilliant detective who is able to use his logic and mind in order to resolve the puzzle, a detective’s assistance, many secondary characters which can be the main murderer or stealer, and a lot of specific details which should be carefully analyzed by the detective.

The role of a detective in the story is the main one, but the readers’ focus is on the process of solving the mystery. Thus, a good mystery story can be compared with the pepper sauce with a lot of ingredients which are intricately combined and mixed. This story makes a reader worry and empathize with the detective till the finale when the mystery or a puzzle is solved.

The mystery genre has a lot of similarities with such genres as suspense, thriller, and suspense thriller. It is possible to state that there are more similarities than differences between these genres. The mystery genre is based on depicting the process of the problem’s resolution which is often a crime. Nevertheless, a mystery story can depend on resolving any problem and any crime when thrillers are predominately based on murders.

These three genres are closely connected because their elements can be observed in stories belonging to various genres and categories. Thus, suspense as a literary device and an element of creating the story can be presented in the mystery genre and thrillers because of adding to the emotional depth of the story.

Detectives who are depicted as the main characters in mystery and suspense stories can overcome a lot of difficulties while resolving the key secret or a problem, but the difference between these two genres is in the readers’ knowledge of the hidden information. Thus, reading a mystery story, a person follows the actions of a detective, and the detective’s eyes are the reader’s eyes.

Reading the suspense or thriller story, a person can know more than a detective or main character because of the author’s intentions to use the effect of suspense. The historical development of the mystery genre is associated with the development of civilization because crime stories can be discussed as the part of the people’s life since the Biblical times.

From this point, the first crime story was described in the Bible with references to the personalities of Cain and Abel. During the late part of the 19th century, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes became the example of the perfect detective in Britain and in the USA.

Focusing on the history of the mystery genre’s development in the USA, it is important to determine such periods as the second part of the 19th century when Edgar Allan Poe writes his first mystery stories, the period of the 1920s-1940s when the American writers develop a specific genre of the hardboiled mystery stories and unite in a specific organization of the Mystery Writers of America to protect their interests as authors.

The second part of the 20th century is associated with developing the mystery stories full of the elements of thriller and suspense. Thus, the combination of genres can be observed. From this perspective, the heyday of the American mystery story is the 20th century when the norms of the hardboiled mystery stories were determined by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler (Hillerman & Penzler, 2001).

The era of a brilliant detective was changed with the era of an active detective who can operate successfully in the world full of violence, corruption, and lie.


Chandler, R. (2001). Red wind. In T. Hillerman & O. Penzler (Eds.), The best American mystery stories of the century (pp. 235-245). USA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Hammett, D. (2001). The Gutting of Couffignal. In T. Hillerman & O. Penzler (Eds.), The best American mystery stories of the century (pp. 105-120). USA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Hillerman, T., & Penzler, O. (2001).The best American mystery stories of the century. USA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

O’Connor, F. (2001). The comforts of home. In T. Hillerman & O. Penzler (Eds.), The best American mystery stories of the century (pp. 489-500). USA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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"The Mystery Genre." IvyPanda, 3 July 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/the-mystery-genre/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Mystery Genre." July 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-mystery-genre/.


IvyPanda. "The Mystery Genre." July 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-mystery-genre/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "The Mystery Genre." July 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-mystery-genre/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Mystery Genre'. 3 July.

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