Don’t Leave Your Crime Story’s Subgenre a Mystery

By Jennifer Leeper

 Whether you’re getting ready to write or publish under the mystery/detective/crime umbrella, it’s important to understand the distinctive subgenres of this type of fiction in order to accurately target both a readership and publishing opportunities.

Private Eye

The private eye subgenre delivers exactly what you would expect, with a licensed private eye solving a crime. Writers in this category include Ross Macdonald and Walter Mosley.

The Thriller

Thrillers emphasize components such as good versus evil, and can include elements of detective and mystery fiction. Robert Ludlum and Patricia Highsmith are popular thriller fiction authors.


Think Scotland Yard and Sherlock Holmes. Traditional detective fiction represents the roots of modern mystery and crime literature. The general formula is a conventional detective solves a murder mystery where there are several suspects all with motive orbiting the corpse or corpses. As for authors in this subgenre, the iconic Arthur Conan Doyle is the most notable example.


The grittier side of life takes center stage in hard-boiled fiction. No one can be trusted and every character from protagonist to the most minor player is generally broken in some way or in many ways. Action in the form of sex and violence tends to be plentiful and explicit in this subgenre, while dialogue is brief, packing a gut punch.

The Cozy

Agatha Christie is perhaps one of the best-known cozy crime/mystery authors. There is typically minimal or no sex and violence in cozy writing. Whereas hard-boiled tends to emphasize the dark underbelly of humanity, cozy characters are generally more refined and cleaner cut. The protagonist solving a cozy mystery or crime mystery tends to follow individual sleuthing instincts instead of police procedure.

The Procedural

Besides a better understanding of who you’re writing for, whether that’s a reader or publisher audience, a little research beforehand can help you hone your fiction through a better grasp of the mechanics of each subgenre. And, isn’t better writing the mystery all writers are trying to solve?

Check out Jennifer Leeper’s latest crime fiction at Heater magazine, where you can read her short story, Atoll. Later this year, Barking Rain Press will release Border Run and Other Stories, a collection of suspense, crime, and other story themes.

You can also follow Jennifer’s repeat offenses in crime and mystery writing on Twitter @JenLeeper1.


Ms. Leeper is an award-winning fiction author who’s publications credits include Jennifer LeeperIndependent Ink Magazine, Notes Magazine, The Stone Hobo, Poiesis, Every Day Fiction, Aphelion Webzine, Heater magazine, and The Liguorian. She has had works published or are in the process of publication by J. Burrage Publications, Hen House Press, Alternating Current Press, Barking Rain Press, Whispering Prairie Press, and Spider Road Press. In 2012, Ms. Leeper was awarded the Catoctin Mountain Artist-in-Residency, and in 2013, Ms. Leeper was a Tuscany Prize Novella Award finalist through Tuscany Press for her short novel, Tribe. Ms. Leeper’s short story Tatau was published in the journal, Poiesis, and was short listed as a finalist for the Luminaire Award in 2015, and nominated by Alternating Current for Queen’s Ferry Press’ Best of Small Fictions of 2016 Prize. In 2016, The Saturday Evening Post honored Ms. Leeper’s short story Book of the Dead with an honorable mention in its Great American Fiction Contest. Ms. Leeper’s short story The Bottle won second place in the Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize through Spider Road Press.

@JenLeeper1 – Twitter – book web site






4 thoughts on “Don’t Leave Your Crime Story’s Subgenre a Mystery

  1. Leeper’s creepers! Good info here for anyone thinking about stepping into the broad pool of mystery/crime/thriller. I more or less stumbled into it, to wit:

    I cut my teeth on the Hardy Boys as a kid. After tiring of writing about war and its destruction of people, I decided to become a mystery writer (nothing like confidence–just DO IT!). 🙂

    So, where did I begin? I picked up a few cozies, and then armed with that information, began writing about a retired Marine who settled in the FL panhandle and stumbled into a crime, later becoming a PI. How did I get from “kids” to “cozies” to “hardboiled?” Hmm . . . it’s a mystery–you tell me and we’ll both know!

    Thanks for an informative post, Jennifer, and please visit MMO again!


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