Mystery vs. Suspense vs. Thriller

Mystery and suspense are often thrown in together as one genre.  Sometimes, it is even mystery, suspense, and thriller.

How / where do you separate those?  Or do you?  Should mystery and suspense be bundled together?  How about mystery, suspense and thriller? 

Of course, a simple vote is okay. But it would be helpful if we could understand why you chose, or would like to see, a particular grouping.

I'll give a few thoughts to get things rolling. 

In a Mystery, we are trying to find out who the bad guy is, or solve some other unknown.  That is the main purpose of the book.

In a suspense, we might know who the bad actors are.  The question here is, what damage gets done, who gets killed, or at least loses; how will the protagonist achieve his or her goal?  And will they?  Of course, these things are mysteries since we do not know the answers until the end.  So lumping suspense and mystery together might make sense.

Thriller is a matter of degree.  When the protagonist is constantly on the edge, might be drilled at any moment, never gets a rest or a moment of tranquility, then we have a thriller.  But does that mean on every page? 

Okay.  I've thrown out some thoughts.  What do you think? 

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  • I think suspense and thriller often go together, but they do not always have to be a mystery. On the other hand, cozy mysteries aren't overly suspenseful or thrilling.

    Personally, I like all 3 together in my work, with a dash of action added for good measure.



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