I’ve been trying to figure out what the difference is between the genres of mystery and crime fiction. In mysteries, we solve a crime that has already happened and usually don’t know who the culprit is until we get to the end of the book. In contrast, crime fiction often allows the reader to be present when the crime is occuring, or when the protagonists are trying to prevent further crime. In crime fiction we often know who the perpetrator is early on and the rest of the novel is a chase.
Crime fiction is also, I believe, much more intense than the typical mystery. Crime novel characters – even the good guys – tend to be disturbed, tortured individuals who have suffered some kind of loss in their lives. I haven’t read a lot of crime fiction, but what I’ve read, I have enjoyed.
Here a couple starting points if you would like to get familiar with the genre:
I loved the first few books of the Stieg Larsson’s Lizbeth Salander series (the ones actually written by Larsson before his death). There’s something about intrigue in Scandanavia that invites me into that world, and I happily accepted this Inviation. The first book is (as you likely know) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Another obscure but fascinating crime series set on another continent is Olin Steinhauer’s Ruthenia Quintet. The first is the series is The Bridge of Sighs. I enjoyed all of these titles, which take place mostly Russia, during the Cold War.
Let’s go back eighty years now, to Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe books, starting with The Big Sleep. Humphrey Bogart played Marlowe in the iconic noir film of the same name, and the Marlowe role was played by Robert Mitchum nearly forty years later in the 1975 film Farewell, My Lovely. If you want to travel back in time and learn more about noir classics in film and literature, this is the series to start you on your journey.
Legal thrillers are a popular sub-genre of crime fiction, and I’m sure you have a passing familiarity with the likes of John Grisham, James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Scott Turow. There are also many others. I will review a couple of these books in the future but haven’t read any of these authors (except for Grisham’s Skipping Chrismas, on which the movie Christmas With the Cranks is based, and which is definitely not a thriller).
Medical thrillers have been around for quite a while as well. Popular authors are Michael Crichton, Robin Cook, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Palmer, and Patricia Cornwell. One theme in older (and some newer) medical thrillers, such as Crichton’s Andromeda Strain, is the potential leak of a virus or bacteria that could destroy or impair human life. (Nothing familiar there.)