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Do you know what some of the most commonly asked questions are? Genre questions. Either asking us what genre a certain book or series is in, or what exactly is that genre. After spending so much time immersed in the world of romance, it has become second nature to instantly catergorise books into their respective genre, or sub-genre. Just a glance at the blurb, or even just the cover then I can tell you what genre it will be. Of course, not everything is black and white and not every book is so easy to label, but a majority are.

We have previously done a very concise guide about genres giving an overview of each, but we decided to take each genre and do a more general and indepth guide. In this, we will tell you the definition of the genre, what types of characters you may expect to see, popular troupes within a genre, some of our favourite authors and series within this genre. And anything else we can think of! By the end of the guide you should be able to tell what book is what and have a few recommendations to pick up.

The fifteenth chapter in this guide is *drum roll please*




Thrillers and mysteries are the puzzle books of the book world. Whether it’s a suspenseful journey into the atrocities of a serial killer or a cute mystery where the local librarian embroils herself in all the local crime, there’s always something to solve. And that’s what thrillers and mysteries are, there’s a crime/suspense element, there’s a secret, there’s something that our main protagonist(s) have to unravel.

The Basics

But, there is a difference between a mystery and a thriller and it mainly centres around just how dangerous and tense the book is:

Essential characteristics of a mystery/cozy mystery include:

  • There will be a mystery to solve but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a murder.
  • The story will end when the mystery is solved – even this takes more than one book
  • There will be no paranormal elements.

It seems so obvious when you write it down! But, the difficulty comes when separating your mystery books from your thrillers. A mystery will be more light-hearted and less psychological and tense than a thriller. Mystery books are also more likely to have an amateur sleuth as the main character as opposed to a member of law enforcement. In fact if you look for cozy mysteries, they are almost exclusively cute and quirky stories with amateur sleuth heroines.

With the mystery genre you also aren’t restricted to the contemporary, you can have historical mystery as well. A mystery also doesn’t necessarily have a romance in it. However, it may have a romantic thread woven in the story and if it’s a series it might be a relationship that develops over the books. But, the main driver of the story is the mystery, even if it is a romantic mystery, the story will end when the puzzle has been solved.

Essential characteristics of a thriller include:

  • A crime would have been committed and needs to investigated.
  • The story will end when the crime is solved – even this takes more than one book
  • It will not contain any paranormal elements.
  • It will be tense and the main characters will be in real danger of being harmed or killed.

A really great thriller will have you on the edge of your seat. It isn’t quite a horror, but parts could be horrific. The main difference between a thriller and a mystery is the amount of tension and danger that’s involved. A thriller had a darker edge. This isn’t the in the realms of anything as cute as a amateur sleuth, instead the main characters are often law enforcement professionals. The people investigating the crime or wrong doing will be in danger.

As with a mystery, this doesn’t need to be set in modern day, it could be set in the past. Also a  thriller may or may not have a romance. If it does have a romance the focal point of the story will still be the solving of the crime and the book can only wrap up when the case is closed, not when there’s a happily ever after.

The line between a thriller and a mystery is a subjective one, although some books are obviously one way or another, there are books that straddle the line. When that is the case it’s a judgement call and I would use factors such as, were the main characters professionals? If so it’s a thriller. Was the story particularly psychological and tense? If not, then pick mystery.

Why UTC loves thrillers, mysteries and cozy mysteries

They are so much fun! I love diving into the book and trying to work out what is happening and how our main characters are going to react. There is also such a fantastic range in the thriller/mystery genre. Do I want some romance? Then there are plenty of series that have a strong romance plot. Do I want something tense and a little scary? Then thrillers can offer that up in droves. Do I want something cute and funny? Then I can get into the cozy mystery section. It has something for everyone.

UTC Required Reading List

What are your favourite thrillers and mystery books?


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Thanks for this. However, I have read a few mysteries witha paranormal bent that arw classified as cozies: witchcraft mysteries by juliet blackwell, ghost hunter mysteries by victoria laurie, magic potions mysteries by heather blake, dr greta helsing by vivian shaw are a few. I wonder if they would be paranormal cozies?

My favorites are j d robb, lady sherlock, lady darby, stillhouse lake, lily bard, morgan dane, charlotte adams series, jenn mckinlay/lucy lawrence/josie belle, chrissy mcmullen mysteries, tea shop mysteries, flower shop mysteries, bibliophile mysteries, and so many others 🙂


I’m enjoying the Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas.

Amy R

Thanks for the post, I like cozy mysteries but it’s been a while since I’ve read one.


I loved He Will Be My Ruin and Stillhouse Lake. I need to read the others


Thanks! This was really helpful. 🙂


thank you… very helpful!