It seems that mysteries and thrillers have been fighting each other for supremacy since the dawn of genre fiction (whenever that happened to have been) and there is still no clear winner because no two people will define them the same. Rebecca Kennedy’s Blog notes that David Morrell, former president of the International Thriller Writers organization, makes the following divisive description:
"One crucial distinction is that traditional mysteries appeal primarily to the mind and emphasize the logical solution to a puzzle. In contrast, thrillers strive for heightened emotions and emphasize the sensations of what might be called an obstacle race and a scavenger hunt.... [T]he contrast is between emotion and logic, between an urgent pace and a calm one. True, the two genres can merge if the scavenger hunt of a thriller involves solving a puzzle. But in a thriller, the goal of solving the puzzle is to excite the reader as much as to satisfy curiosity."
Even David Morrell agrees that the differences between the two genres are not always so well delineated. Libraries don’t always get it right and bookstores don’t always get it right but the reader gets it right every time since they are reading exactly what they like (whichever subtle genre it may be!). J
I’ve delved into this discussion today because the Jefferson County Library Cooperative’s Reader’s Advisory Roundtable met today to talk about these fraternal twins, mysteries and thrillers. We briefly discussed ways of trying to tell the difference between them but came to no consensus. All that aside, we talked about some GrEaT books, which I will of course share with you!
The Last Theorem / Arthur Clarke et al (self billed as an “intellectual thriller in the science fiction genre”)
Death Do Us Part / various authors (short stories)
Hardly Knew Her / Laura Lippman (short stories)
White Soul / Brandt DodsonElise Title’s Natalie Price series
Scarpetta / Patricia Cornwell
Executive Privilege / Phillip Margolin
Crisis / Robin Cook