A guide to mystery for English learners.
What is Mystery?
A mystery story asks, “Who did it?” The story starts with a crime, such as a murder or theft. Then, the main characters investigate to find out the truth. The reader often has a chance to “play along” and try to figure out the clues. At the end of the story, we find out, “Who did it?” and “How or why did they do it?”
You will see: Murder scenes. Detectives looking for clues. Police tracking down suspects.
Popular mystery novels and TV series are:
The Popular Sub-Genres of Mystery
Cozy mysteries are perfect for readers who don’t like violent details or scary scenes. Cozy mysteries are… cozy! In the story, we never see gruesome details, such as a descriptions of blood or terrible injuries. Sometimes the crime is nonviolent (a stolen necklace) and sometimes the crime is murder (a poisoned husband). The main character is usually a small town woman with no detective experience.
This sub-genre is fun and light-hearted. People enjoy reading it because you only need common sense to solve the crime. There isn’t a lot of specialized vocabulary, so for English learners, this is a great subgenre to start in!
You will see: Clever, social women. Lazy police. Small towns. No blood.
Popular Cozy Mystery novels and TV series:
This genre focuses on police work. The characters are usually experts that specialize in subjects such as autopsy (examining dead bodies), forensic science (checking fingerprints or DNA evidence), and interrogation (questioning witnesses and suspects). The detectives add up the clues to find out who the murderer is.
If you are new to Tadoku, this is a difficult sub-genre to read or watch. It has a lot of scientific and specialized vocabulary.
You will see: Gruesome dead bodies. Scientific evidence. Chasing down suspects.
Popular police procedural books and TV series:
Paranormal mysteries are regular mysteries with a twist of fantasy or supernatural. The murders are often believed to be committed by ghosts, vampires, evil spirits or witches. Normal detectives and science can’t solve these crimes, so the main characters usually have some experience with the supernatural or they have a special talent.
Some paranormal mysteries have a cozy mystery feel, and some have a police procedural feel. Depending on style, this genre could be easy or difficult for English learners.
You will see: Angry spirits. Magical ceremonies. Communication with the dead.
Popular paranormal mystery novels and TV shows:
This is a mix of mystery and comedy. Sometimes, the main characters are detectives, but sometimes, the main characters are criminals. These stories will make you laugh because of silly criminals and clumsy detectives. The tone is light, so the crimes don’t usually involve murder. Typically, the criminals attempt a heist (stealing a lot of money or goods) or a ransom (kidnapping someone to get money from their family).
Because the tone is light, there isn’t a lot of scientific vocabulary. But watch out for authors that use a lot of American cultural references for humor – it might be difficult for non-Americans to understand.
You will see: Outrageous heist plans. Clumsy characters. “Dumb-luck” criminals.
Popular caper mystery movies and TV shows:
Suspense / Thriller Mystery
Suspense and thriller mysteries are packed with tension. Once we start reading, it’s hard to stop. Suspense mysteries have a slow pace, but we fear that something bad might happen soon (a serial killer might strike again). Thriller mysteries have a fast pace, and the characters are usually racing against the clock (a bomb will explode in 20 minutes).
This sub-genre is perfect for intermediate and advanced readers who get bored easily. These stories will keep us turning the page!
You will see: Detectives in danger. Car chases. Gun fights. Kidnapping.
Popular suspense / thriller mysteries: