8 Types of Mystery Subgenres

You can read a book at any time, any place, right? Yet, there’s always that special place and time that makes reading a certain book better.

Wouldn’t it be nice to curl up on the couch wrapped in a blanket, cup of coffee in hand with the fireplace crackling in the background? Maybe a light flurry of snow is falling outside the window. I would love to be reading a nice, cozy mystery.

Or what if there’s a thunderstorm? Still on the couch with a cup of coffee, I’d love to read a suspenseful, intense murder mystery.

Just like there are many different genres of stories, there are many subgenres of those genres. Mystery is no exception.

8 Types of Mystery Subgenres Rachel Poli

There are so many subgenres for Mystery. Too many to count, so I’m only going to touch upon a few of them.

Cozy Mystery

I like to think of cozy mysteries as the mystery no one will remember. The setting is usually in a small town, or maybe even just limited to one household or building. The mystery itself has very little grittiness to it–sex, violence, the works. The crime usually isn’t too big and the victim isn’t usually someone important.

Amateur Detective

Well, everyone has to start somewhere, right? It’s not often you come across a dead body, but if you did you wouldn’t totally try to solve it, am I right?

The amateur detective subgenre is when the protagonist isn’t part of the law enforcement, but they come across a dead body of someone close to them. They try to solve the murder themselves, maybe they’re a key witness or they’re own job entails some evidence. Either way, they try to help the police whether they want the help or not.

Bumbling Detective

Think The Pink Panther or Get Smart. The bumbling detective subgenre is a detective trying to solve the crime while being humorous for the audience. It’s funny, it’s mysterious, and he often solves the crime… But only because of good luck.

Courtroom Drama

This is pretty self-explanatory. The mystery is explained and solved in the courtroom most likely through the eyes of the defense attorney. However, it would be cool if it was through the eyes of the prosecutor or even the judge… Or maybe even the defendant, whether they’re guilty or not.


This is the most typical kind of mystery. We follow the detective as he tries to figure it all out. The clues are laid out for the reader as they figure it out along with the detective.

Police Procedural

This is self-explanatory as well. Using your well-known knowledge of police protocol, the reader follows the police as they solve the crime with the tools they learned from the Academy.

Private Detective

Yet another self-explanatory one. This is just about the same as the Police Procedural subgenre, but this revolves around a private detective. Easy enough, right?

Heists and Capers

This is a cool subgenre. This is a mystery from the criminal’s point of view. It’s the plan of the crime and then follow-through. Whether they get caught or not will be all up to you. (That all rhymed and not on purpose, either!)

There are plenty of other subgenres–some that are already well established and some that will be created in the near future, I’m sure. But as I was writing this post, I tried to figure out which subgenre my detective series goes under.

The original George Florence book I started writing many years ago was under the bumbling detective category. When I developed the story further and Lilah was created, George was still kind of wacky, but it just didn’t work. I then changed the point of view to Lilah and George’s personality changed as a result. Now my series is a cross between private detective (George) and the amateur detective (Lilah).

Of course, the novel is still in the editing stages, so who knows if it’ll change anymore.

What kind of mystery do you write? What kind of mysteries do you like to read?

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13 thoughts on “8 Types of Mystery Subgenres

  1. I love this! I have a post scheduled on horror. There are so many subgenres now – for all genres. Kinda confusing, but also kinda nice. πŸ™‚

  2. As someone who is currently writing a cozy mystery and has been reading them for years, I would have to disagree with the idea they are ” the mystery no one will remember.” They are light, yes. Forgettable? No. Each new installment in a cozy mystery is like welcoming the reader home to the small community where, while the murder isn’t gritty or described explicitly, the reader is as emotionally invested as the protagonist. We spend hours after hours with the protagonist and recurring characters and feel as much part of the story as them. Taking out the intensity of the crime or the investigation does not diminish the ability to recall the story. Simply my opinion on this, mind you.

    • I agree with what you say, but I don’t think that’s what the definition is trying to convey. I looked up various definitions of “cozy mystery” to be as accurate as I could and all of them were described as such.
      I take the definition as the case itself in the book can be forgettable as opposed to a serial killer-type case or something as big as genocide. It’s a small case that once it’s over, it’s case closed.
      So while I agree with you, and you bring up great points, I don’t think it has anything to do with the ability to recall the story or not. Why they describe the cozy mystery as such is beyond me.

    • My thoughts exactly! I love cozy mysteries! I don’t need to know every single gritty detail of how the crime was committed and such. Thanks for putting into words my thoughts!

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