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coreen222
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Question about Mystery classifications

Like I said in other posts, I am new to the mystery genre and I am trying to figure out which types of mysteries I would most enjoy.

I have read suspense-thrillers as a young adult, for example Robin Cook, but I am not really all that into them anymore.

More recently I have read "cozy" mysteries, such as Susan Wittig Albert, but I wasn't compelled to read more when I had finished. I never liked Nancy Drew as a kid. I felt like the characters in these books were boring, and they were too description heavy. But, I did enjoy Encyclopedia Brown (although I could never figure them out, and eventually just got frustrated with them).

Now, I had just finished reading the Agatha Christie selection "Who Killed Roger Ackroyd" and I loved it, to say the least. So what kind of mystery is this considered. Is it a cozy, or harboiled? If I liked this, would I like the Miss Marple books? Or should I stick to detectives like Poirot?

For other fiction I prefer character driven novels, over plot driven, so I think that the mysteries I read need to be character rich, and light on description. I don't want my sleuth to be perfect, I want his or her flaws to be obvious--like Poirot's arrogance. Any suggestions on where to turn next?
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becke_davis
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Re: Question about Mystery classifications

Agatha Christie's mysteries are considered cozies, meaning there are murders but without anything too heavy and with minimal (or non-existent) blood and gore.

Do try other Agatha Christie books -- I mentioned Funerals are Fatal in response to another post, but other ones I like a lot include:

Murder is Easy
The Mirror Crack'd
The Pale Horse
A Caribbean Mystery
Nemesis
Cards on the Table
Hallowe'en Party
Towards Zero
The Body in the Library

Too many to list!

Other authors from Agatha Christie's heyday include Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Patricia Wentworth, Marjorie Allingham, etc.

You might like Martha Grimes' books -- she is an American who writes very British mysteries. You should probably read them in order for the best effect. P.D. James, Peter Robinson, Celia Fremlin, Dick Francis, Elizabeth George, Elizabeth Lemarchand, Margaret Yorke, even A.A. Milne (The Red House) -- there are so many great authors, it's hard to come up with a short list!
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coreen222
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Re: Question about Mystery classifications

A.A. Milne wrote an adult mystery? I never knew that. I love his kid's books, I will definitely give that one a shot. But I will start with another Agatha Christie for now.

Thank you so much.
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becke_davis
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Re: Question about Mystery classifications

I have an old copy of A.A. Milne's the Red House -- I came across it by accident at a used book store when I lived in England. It's a really good mystery, a classic of its kind, which goes to show that Milne was a great writer no matter what age group he was writing for. And when you read his children's books (not the Disney versions), you'll see why those stories are still popular with both children and adults.
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jaclehr
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Re: Question about Mystery classifications

[ Edited ]
You also might try Linda Barnes, Carolyn Haines (I started reading her Bones series this summer and it is a good read), Elizabeth Peters, MC Beaton (she is British, try the Hamish MacBeth series), Elizabeth George, and Margaret Maron. These are a little bit edgier than cozies, but not explicit about the murders. You might also try the Hercule Poirot books by Agatha Christie. I have included a link to the Waterloo Public Library that has a list of "If you like Agatha Christie, you will like..."

http://www.wpl.ca/site/goodreads/good_reads_agatha_christie.asp

I have never read the AA Milne book. I will have to pick that one up.

Message Edited by jaclehr on 08-29-2007 01:36 PM
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becke_davis
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Re: The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne

Barnes and Noble has a modern reprint of this book, and it's under $5 -- what a deal! I was surprised to see it was originally published in 1922. It reminds me more of an Agatha Christie than a Sherlock Holmes mystery, but it actually predates most of Christie's works.

Product Details

# ISBN: 0486401294
ISBN-13: 9780486401294
# Format: Paperback, 156pp
# Publisher: Dover Publications
# Sales Rank: 70,336
# Series: Dover Mystery Classics

Annotation

In the tradition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, this mystery by the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh book is set in the English countryside in a stately British mansion with an abundance of characters and curious clues.
From the Publisher
A mysterious shooting on a country estate, the disappearance of the primary suspect, secret passageways, underwater evidence, and more. A finely crafted whodunit by one of England's most popular writers.

Droll, finely crafted whodunit from one of England's most popular writer's sparkles with witty dialogue, deft plotting, and an amusing cast of characters. Amateur detectives Antony Gillingham and his chum Bill Beverley investigate the disappearance of their genial host after a mysterious shooting, come upon secret passageways, discover underwater evidence, and more. A rare gem that will charm mystery lovers, Anglophiles, and general readers alike.
From The Critics
Library Journal
Though Milne is immediately associated with Winnie-the-Pooh and pals, he nonetheless wrote a number of adult titles, including this 1922 novel in which guests at a country estate become amateur sleuths when a shooting occurs and all evidence points toward their host. This edition contains a new introduction by scholar Douglas Greene.
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becke_davis
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Re: The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne

Barnes and Noble has a modern reprint of this book, and it's under $5 -- what a deal! I was surprised to see it was originally published in 1922. It reminds me more of an Agatha Christie than a Sherlock Holmes mystery, but it actually predates most of Christie's works.


# ISBN: 0486401294
ISBN-13: 9780486401294
# Format: Paperback, 156pp
# Publisher: Dover Publications
# Sales Rank: 70,336
# Series: Dover Mystery Classics

Annotation

In the tradition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, this mystery by the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh book is set in the English countryside in a stately British mansion with an abundance of characters and curious clues.
From the Publisher
A mysterious shooting on a country estate, the disappearance of the primary suspect, secret passageways, underwater evidence, and more. A finely crafted whodunit by one of England's most popular writers.

Droll, finely crafted whodunit from one of England's most popular writer's sparkles with witty dialogue, deft plotting, and an amusing cast of characters. Amateur detectives Antony Gillingham and his chum Bill Beverley investigate the disappearance of their genial host after a mysterious shooting, come upon secret passageways, discover underwater evidence, and more. A rare gem that will charm mystery lovers, Anglophiles, and general readers alike.

From The Critics
Library Journal
Though Milne is immediately associated with Winnie-the-Pooh and pals, he nonetheless wrote a number of adult titles, including this 1922 novel in which guests at a country estate become amateur sleuths when a shooting occurs and all evidence points toward their host. This edition contains a new introduction by scholar Douglas Greene.
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coreen222
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Re: The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne

Thank you for all of the great suggestions. I am going to have to track down that A.A. Milne book.
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Curt42
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Re: Question about Mystery classifications

In reference to the question of whether Christie is a cozy or a hardboiled, tyring to define a type of a book can become a tricky issue. In the time frame of Christie there were the grand dames of British mystery - Christie, Dorothy Saters, Nagaio Marsh, and Margery Allingham. They wrote whodunnits with a bent towards class distinction. Meanwhile in America, the Black Mask (a magazine) school of writing were developing. The initial proponent was Caroll John Daly, who faded into obscurity. Following were Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Garner, and Raymond Chandler and then few laters Mickey Spillane. Instead of parlor room mysteries, they wrote a tougher and more gritty story that had an influence of prohibition and the crimes of the roaring 20's. The American school developed into noir in the 40's with Cornell Woolrich and James McCain. In modern times, both schools have their imitators but no one has quite equally the original.
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IBIS
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Re: Mystery classification: COZY MYSTERIES

Agatha Christie is THE mistress of the "cozy" mystery. Many would say that she invented the genre.

Here are some simple definitions for a "cozy" mystery. With the understanding that there are sometimes exceptions, for example, although most cozies take place in a small village in the near past or the present, some can take place in the future.

A cozy is a mystery which includes a bloodless crime and contains very little violence, sex, or coarse language. By the end of the story, the criminal is punished and order is restored to the community.

The character solving the crime is often an amateur sleuth who becomes involved because of personal reasons but it is also possible for the character to be a professional: police officer, medical examiner, or private detective.

Many cozies invite the reader to solve the crime first. In those instances, clues should be evident and fair. Red herrings (apparent clues which distract the reader) may be included and all the suspects might appear guilty along the way but these falsehoods should be explained by the end.

Cozy Characters
The main character in a cozy is the good guy (or gal). This person uncovers the criminal through an emotional or intellectual examination of the scene, suspects, and clues. The reader will want to be able to identify with the main character who should be likeable and whose faults are present but socially acceptable.

Cozies often emphasize the positive. The victim in a cozy should not be someone who is terribly missed. Cozies are, for the most part, feel good stories. Murder is wrong, but someone had to die for the plot to get underway, so at least the victim was the rich uncle that nobody really knew.

The criminal in a cozy is usually motivated by human traits of greed, jealousy, or revenge. You won't find many serial or thrill killers in cozies. The criminal may commit a second crime during the story but again any violence should take place between the lines and not on the page.

Supporting characters in a cozy can be eccentric, exasperating, or entertaining. They don't have to be likeable but none should be so outrageously evil that they might cause the reader to stop reading.

Cozy Settings
While Agatha Christie popularized the small English village as a setting, cozies can take place anywhere. Typically, a cozy has a small setting so that the pool of suspects is limited and relationships can be developed. Since the main character does not usually have access to forensic laboratories, the solution of the crime depends on talking to characters who all know each other.

For the sake of simplicity, you may decide to set your cozy wherever you live. If that happens to be a bustling city, shrink the scope to focus on a single apartment building or workplace.

Cozies can take place at any time although those occurring in the past will be considered historical mysteries unless they align with Agatha Christie environments. Weather is often bad, isolating the cast of characters from outside assistance or escape.


Cozy Plots
The cozy is often a puzzle where all the pieces are available for assembly, even if the one which points at the killer needs to be flipped or examined more closely.

The precipitating crime either occurs before the story starts or soon after it begins. The main character becomes involved (happily or not) and sets out to solve the injustice.

As the sleuth gathers clues and gossip, there may be a threat which increases tension. There may also be fear that a second crime might occur, and it might.

The cozy is not a roller coaster ride as much as it is an examination of human frailty. Instead of unexpected plot twists, cozies are known for surprising revelations.

In the end, the main character -- and justice -- prevail.
IBIS

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Curt42
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Re: Mystery classification: COZY MYSTERIES

Another major difference between the cozy and the hardboiled is how they developed. The grand dames started the cozies off in full length novels. The hardboiled developed from short stories in the pulps. The most influential was Black Mask, which was started by the legendary journalist H.L. Mencken. He had a literary magazine called The Smart Set which was a real literated magazine. It was also a money loser. Mencken started Black Mask to make money to cover the losses of The Smart Set. There were numerous mystery pulps in the early 20's so writers had to have a gimmick to get readers and more importantly to get them to come back. These stories were filled with action. Due to the page limitations it was hard to develope much of a plot or to develope a complicated mystery. In May 1923, Carroll John Daly had a story called "Three Gun Terry." This is considered by many as the first hardboiled detective stor;y. The next month, Daly intoduced Eace Williams, the first big name hardboiled PI. Book publishers, however, did not think that American mystery novels would sell until 1926 when "The Benson Murder Case", the first Philo Vance, by S.S. VanDyne was published. The success of this story caused publishers to seek mystery novels by American authors and the doors were open for Hammett, Chandler, Stout, Garner, and the rest of the Black Mask school. The hardboiled had hit the main stream.
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IBIS
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Re: Mystery classification: COZY MYSTERIES

Thank you for the information re hard boiled mystery. I'm looking forward to the October discussion of THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler. I hope you'll join the discussion since you are knowledgeable about this genre.
IBIS

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Curt42
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Re: Mystery classification: COZY MYSTERIES

Ibis did such a good job of explaining what a cozy is that I am going to copy their format and do the same for hardboiled. I had previously posted the history of the hardboiled (see above), but I will reiterate a couple of points.

The origin of the hardboiled was in a pulp magazine called Black Mask. The emphasis was on fast action. The man that created the hardboiled was Carroll John Daly, but Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout, Erle Stanlye Garner, Mickey Spillane, John D. MacDonald perfected the formula and took it to new heights.

To paraphrase Ibis again, here are some simple definitions for what a "hardboiled" is. With the understanding that there are sometimes exceptions, for example although most hardboiled take place in large cities in the near past or the present, some can take place in the future. Some of the recent books have been written in the past in the 20's and 30's as period pieces in the golden age of the style.

A hardboiled is a mystery which includes a murder, sometimes several, and a lot of violence, sex, and course talk. The sex and violence are usually not overly graphic. The language in the earlier hardboileds was an occassional four letter word, but became more prevelant over time. Smoking and drinking were quite prevelant.

The character solving the crime is usually a private eye. Most of them are licensed to do what they do. Most of them have some type of background as a policeman or working for a larger detective agency like the Pinkertons.

Hardboileds vary as to the importance of the mystery. With an emphasis on action, the mystery sometimes becomes secondary to the plot. The later Chandlers were so character driven that the mystery itself became muddled. Red herrings were very popular in hardboileds also. Sometimes there was multiple things going on that had to be sorted out to get to the A-story line.

Hardboiled Characters
The main character is the good guy. There were not many lead females in the hardboiled. The good guy will sometimes have shades of grey attached to him. This character uncovers the mystery by investigating a trail by using a lot of shoeleather or tire tread and leads through strange and dark worlds of corruption and vice. Sometimes there is also a trail of bodies.

Hardboiled show a darker side. The lead will usually triumph in the end, but sometimes there is a cost of a principle or the death of a friend. Sometimes a hardboiled will make you feel dirty at the end for what you have been in contact with. Sometimes good people will die because they got in the way. The bad guy is usually brought to justice, but sometimes it is not at the hands of the law.

The criminals in hardboiled are motivated by the human traits also, but sometimes to excess.

Hardboiled settings
Hardboiled usually take place in large cities where there is a greater opportunity for gambling, vice and the rackets. Chandler and Gardner based there strories in LosAngeles and Hammett in SanFrancisco. (That was also where they lived so they wrote what they knew best about). New York and Chicago were major settings along with fictional locations worked to the authors needs.

There was a constant reference to the mean streets. Hardboileds took place in locations that most people would consider undesirable. Much of it was at night and rain was good for atmosphere.

Hardboiled Plots
Plot was an optional thing in the hardboileds. With an emphasis on action, the plot was sometimes a loose framework. On the other hand, Chandler in his later works wrote highly complicated plots. Quite often there was an A story with a B and several other letters included to complicate the story. In cozies there was usually a clean break when the mystery was solved, but quite often in hardboileds the mystery would be solved (the perpetrator died), but the mystery would still not be solved. The story sometimes continued beyond what the reader thought was the end.

Most of the early hardboiled are now considered politically or socially incorrect. They had a lot of violence - the body count got very high in some of them. Smoking and drinking were very prevelant. Sometimes the hero even had a hangover, but he usually got over it very quick. There was also more stories dealing with the darker side of life - drugs, prostitution, gambling, slavery, etc. Many of the characters were just plain unsavory.

Woment had a different place in the hardboileds. Most of the authors were male. Women very seldom were the main character, but they could be the victims, the murders, the girlfriends, the tysts, and of course the long suffering secretary.

The hardboileds had their own code of justice. Justice usually did prevail, but sometimes it was not pretty.
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becke_davis
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Re: Mystery classification: COZY MYSTERIES

I'm so glad some of you, like Curt 42 and Ibis, are really jumping in with explanations, author recommendations, etc. This is wonderful, and I'm sure it also really helpful, especially since a lot of mystery readers aren't familiar with all the different aspects of the genre.
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IBIS
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Re: Hardboiled--as in eggs

[ Edited ]
I found out where the term "hardboiled" and "soft-boiled" came from.

Fifty years ago most Americans knew to the minute how long they wanted their breakfast eggs immersed in boiling water. A "two-minute egg" had a runny, liquefied yolk, while a "ten-minute egg" was solid throughout.

The distinction between hard throughout, and soft inside but hard outside was widely known. Hard-boiled detectives, like Marlowe and Spade, were solid throughout. If they were "soft" inside, they hid it from their antagonists.

This hard-boiled egg imagery complimented another -- sap. "Sap" was soft, sticky syrup leaking from trees, which also had hard exteriors. The noun "sap" refers to someone who is foolish, whose mental processes are not structured and orderly.

The verb "to sap" meant to hit someone over the head with a blackjack, causing the victim to become "soft." By the time it appeared in hard-boiled narrative, "sap" meant "sucker" or weak -- the opposite of "hard-boiled."

Sap and soft-boiled meant sentimental, which weakens the hard-boiled hero.

Message Edited by IBIS on 09-24-2007 09:24 AM
IBIS

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becke_davis
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Re: Hardboiled--as in eggs



IBIS wrote:
I found out where the term "hardboiled" and "soft-boiled" came from.

Fifty years ago most Americans knew to the minute how long they wanted their breakfast eggs immersed in boiling water. A "two-minute egg" had a runny, liquefied yolk, while a "ten-minute egg" was solid throughout.

The distinction between hard throughout, and soft inside but hard outside was widely known. Hard-boiled detectives, like Marlowe and Spade, were solid throughout. If they were "soft" inside, they hid it from their antagonists.

This hard-boiled egg imagery complimented another -- sap. "Sap" was soft, sticky syrup leaking from trees, which also had hard exteriors. The noun "sap" refers to someone who is foolish, whose mental processes are not structured and orderly.

The verb "to sap" meant to hit someone over the head with a blackjack, causing the victim to become "soft." By the time it appeared in hard-boiled narrative, "sap" meant "sucker" or weak -- the opposite of "hard-boiled."

Sap and soft-boiled meant sentimental, which weakens the hard-boiled hero.

Message Edited by IBIS on 09-24-2007 09:24 AM




Fascinating! I'd never read that before.
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Curt42
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Re: Question about Mystery classifications

Hardboiled goes back even farther than that. Mark Twain used the term several times in reference to people including U.S. Grant. Twain refered to him as being hardboiled. I can offer no explanation beyond the fact that Twain used the term.
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chana56
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Re: Question about Mystery classifications

Great definitions above, thanks! I feel like printing them out and handing them to inept booksellers or their novice employees when I ask for a cozy and get a "huh?" in return...

Another detailed list of mystery genre definitions, as well as lists of authors for each genre, is on the Books 'n' Bytes site:

http://www.booksnbytes.com/genres_mystery.html
Chana

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IBIS
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Re: Question about Mystery classifications

Thanks, Chana, for this link. I found it very helpful.
IBIS

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Clea_Simon
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Re: Mystery classification: COZY MYSTERIES

[ Edited ]
One problem with the label of "cozy" is that, to some extent, it has been taken over by books that many readers find overly cute. To many readers, cozy now means that each chapter will end with a recipe or a housekeeping or needlepoint tip. While this is fine for readers who find this warm and comforting, some of us who write traditional Agatha Christie-style mysteries (i.e., a small community or village setting, amateur sleuth, character driven, little blood, a puzzle aspect, a crime based on human nature) are now opting to be called "traditional" mysteries.

(I'm involved in this because my mysteries have cats in them and involve animal themes, but the cats don't talk or solve the crimes.)

Message Edited by Clea_Simon on 10-10-2007 12:47 PM
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