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Discussion Starter #1
I know the romance genre has the Golden Rule-- there must be an HEA (or at least HFN). Other rules apply as well, but this one is THE defining mandate.

Is there a similar hard-and-fast bottom line for mysteries, murder mysteries, to be precise? I just read the most frustrating book that absolutely enraged me at the end, and I wonder if it broke any (unwritten) rules of the genre.

The book does involve an early murder and the reader discovers that the bad guy has further nefarious plots in the works. We know early on who the bad guy is, which isn't a problem in itself. It's kind of fun to follow the paths of the good guys and the bad guys, knowing that at some point the two tracks will inevitably intersect. Okay, so far, no problem. But in the last few pages, it develops that... the bad guy's plan works out and his involvement in the numerous crimes isn't detected. Meanwhile the good guys have a supposed perp in custody for one crime, but there's unresolved doubt about other suspicious circumstances, not to mention the perp's connection to the ultimate baddy.

So yeah, bad guy totally gets away with multiple felonies and lives to enjoy a sweet life while the good guys are left angry and frustrated.

When I got to that ending, I wanted to fling the book (paper book) across the room. Is that a new trend in mysteries? This book is part of a long-standing, well-known series which had adhered to the classical "justice is served" formula.
 
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Sounds like a thriller miscategorized as a mystery. Mysteries do sort of require the crime to be solved at the end. Thrillers have more legroom for the villain to get away with it.
 

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There has to be a murder. And a mystery. ;D As to resolution, I'd say the main detective has to know who did it . . . even if he can't definitively prove it.

Cozys have to have a solution and the bad guy get his comuppance -- there's never too much gore and the 'sleuth' is usually an amateur.

In long standing series, once well established, it isn't unusual for there to be longer story arcs that carry through several volumes. But there still ought to be a central plot that is resolved somehow.

My guess: you're talking about the Richard Jury series. In The Old Wine Shades I wasn't so much bothered by the fact that he couldn't prove the guy did it, as that the writing was scattered and the story didn't feel coherent. Dust was about the same, but The Black Cat and Vertigo 42 both get back more to the 'old' Jury, (and the writing is tighter) though he's still dwelling on his lack of success with the guy in Old Wine Shades -- he stays in contact with him still hoping to get him to let something actionable slip.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ann in Arlington said:
There has to be a murder. And a mystery. ;D As to resolution, I'd say the main detective has to know who did it . . . even if he can't definitively prove it.

Cozys have to have a solution and the bad guy get his comuppance -- there's never too much gore and the 'sleuth' is usually an amateur.

In long standing series, once well established, it isn't unusual for there to be longer story arcs that carry through several volumes. But there still ought to be a central plot that is resolved somehow.

My guess: you're talking about the Richard Jury series. In The Old Wine Shades I wasn't so much bothered by the fact that he couldn't prove the guy did it, as that the writing was scattered and the story didn't feel coherent. Dust was about the same, but The Black Cat and Vertigo 42 both get back more to the 'old' Jury, (and the writing is tighter) though he's still dwelling on his lack of success with the guy in Old Wine Shades -- he stays in contact with him still hoping to get him to let something actionable slip.
No, not the Richard Jury series. I've read quite a few of the other books in the series I mentioned, over the years, and while I don't remember the resolution of every single one of them, I'm pretty sure the bad guys didn't get off scot-free. And while there are a number of deaths in this book, there is a so-called explanation for them, or a perp in custody, even if there are more questions than answers. I realize that in real life, things like this might happen and some questions go unanswered, but most people don't read fiction to find unresolved cases and unanswered questions. :mad:
 

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Jena H said:
I realize that in real life, things like this might happen and some questions go unanswered, but most people don't read fiction to find unresolved cases and unanswered questions. :mad:
I'm very much the same way when it comes to books/movies. I want a resolution, I want to see the bad guy "get it," I want to see the good guy win, and for the ends to be tied up in a satisfying way.

If it's classified as the Mystery the crime must be solved, imo.
 

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No "deus ex machina" shenanigans.  Also, I believe in fair play mysteries. Don't let the sleuth hide pertinent facts from the reader to keep them from solving the crime.
 

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Murder/ crime, investigation, red herrings, last chapter reveal/twist ending to resolve.

Otherwise it's more than likely a thriller where the baddie could be known beforehand. Doesn't sound like a well structured  murder mystery story from what you describe.

What's a HFN or a HEA mentioned in  the OP? That's a mystery in itself for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Adam Croft, you're likely right and the book is a thriller.... although while I found it interesting (again, anticipating what would happen when the good & bad guys intersected), I didn't find it very thrilling. Regardless of the genre, the finale of the bookt was totally unsatisfying.

Decon, in romance, HEA is Happily Ever After, and HFN is Happily for Now. If a book doesn't have one of these two types of endings (preferably HEA), it cannot be considered a romance.
 

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Murder mysteries must have a murder and it must be solved at the end. 
Oh and book thrown across a room make a loud noise when they land.
 

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Adam Croft said:
Personally, I don't think there are many rules which actually need to be adhered to, other than the fact that it needs to be a MYSTERY, so the book you described in which the killer is revealed early on is certainly not a mystery.
I'm going to disagree slightly here: if the murderer is pretty obvious early on but nobody knows how it was done, for example, then you might still call that a mystery. There has to be something that we as readers don't know the answer to until the end, and that is usually the identity of the murderer, although it doesn't necessarily have to be.

ETA I was trying to think of an example, and IIRC The Hound of the Baskervilles is one. We know whodunit pretty early, but there are still things that need to be discovered.
 

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Lydniz said:
I'm going to disagree slightly here: if the murderer is pretty obvious early on but nobody knows how it was done, for example, then you might still call that a mystery. There has to be something that we as readers don't know the answer to until the end, and that is usually the identity of the murderer, although it doesn't necessarily have to be.

ETA I was trying to think of an example, and IIRC The Hound of the Baskervilles is one. We know whodunit pretty early, but there are still things that need to be discovered.
I believe this is called a howdunit, and it's definitely a valid type of mystery. In this type of mystery, the protagonist has to discover how the murder was done, rather than who did it.
 

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It doesn't have to be shown as a murder at the outset. It could be considered as a suicide, but one investigator suspects a murder. There are many different scenarios.

Missing: The Body of Evidence in my signature starts with death by spontaneous combustion in a locked room. Everyone in LAPD homicide considers it a freak unexplained accident, except the rookie female MC detective. The mystery remains until the last chapter. Saying that, it crosses genre into the paranormal, but it's still a murder mystery.
 
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Decon said:
It doesn't have to be shown as a murder at the outset. It could be considered as a suicide, but one investigator suspects a murder. There are many different scenarios.

Missing: The Body of Evidence in my signature starts with death by spontaneous combustion in a locked room. Everyone in LAPD homicide considers it a freak unexplained accident, except the rookie female MC detective. The mystery remains until the last chapter. Saying that, it crosses genre into the paranormal, but it's still a murder mystery.
Because I obsess over proper classification, "paranormal" is not actually a genre (and no, I don't care if someone finds a paranormal category listing on Amazon...Amazon's categories have all the logic of a three-year old hopped up on sugar). "paranormal mystery" is a sub-genre of mystery. "paranormal" is a descriptor or qualifier added to a genre to provide additional information. much like "cozy" is a qualifier on "cozy mystery."

I know, I know. I'm splitting hairs. :eek: But this thread and others like it exist precisely because too many authors don't pay proper attention to genre.
 
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