Mystery fiction is a distinct subgenre of detective fiction that entails the occurrence of an unknown event which requires the protagonist to make known (or solve). It is similar to the whodunit in that the clues may often be given to the reader by subtle means. Though it is often confused with detective fiction, it does not require a crime to have occurred or the involvement of law enforcement.
The genre has its beginning in the riddles told in Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Similar stories were told in the middle ages, but the genre didn't really begin to develop until the detective stories of Edgar Allan Poe. The first true mystery novel is considered to be The Woman in White (1860) by Wilkie Collins. Collins wrote several more in this genre, including The Moonstone (1868) which is thought to be his masterpiece. The genre began to expand near the turn of century with the development of dime novels and pulp magazines. Pulp magazines were especially helpful to the genre with many authors writing in the genre in the 1920s. An import contribution to mystery fiction in the 1920's was the development of the juvenile mystery by Edward Stratemeyer. Stratemeyer originally developed and wrote the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries written under the Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene pseudonyms, respectively (and later written by his daughter, Harriet S. Adams , and other authors). The 1920's also gave rise to the most popular mystery author of all time, Agatha Christie. Christie's books are numerous, though her literary reputation has suffered. The massive popularity of pulp magazines in the 1930s and 1940s only increased the interest in mystery fiction. Pulp magazines decreased in popularity in the 1950s with the rise of television, so much so that the numerous titles available then are reduced to two today (and those are Censored page and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine). The Detective fiction author Ellery Queen (pseudonym of authors Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee ) is also credited with the continued interest in mystery fiction thanks to the namesake magazine which began in 1941. Interest in mystery fiction continues to this day thanks to various television shows which have used mystery themes over the years and the many juvenile and adult novels which continue to be published and frequent the best seller lists. Also, there is some overlap with "thriller" or "suspense" novels and authors in those genres may consider themselves mystery novelists. An organization for the authors of mystery, detective, and crime fiction was begun in 1945, called the Mystery Writers of America. This popular genre has naturally made the leap into the online world, spawning countless websites devoted to every aspect of the genre, with even a few supposedly written by real detectives .
- Crime fiction
- Detective fiction
- List of crime writers
- List of mystery writers
- List of thriller authors
- Mystery Writers of America website: http://www.mysterywriters.org/
- Crime Fiction research site for mystery collectors