Monday, December 05, 2011

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012

There is something about a mystery I just can't resist. If you think about it, all books contain some element of mystery. Only, the mystery might not involve an actual crime. Even so, crime fiction has a special place in my heart. It's the place I go when I am seeking out a comfort read or to be entertained. I turn to mysteries when I am looking for a good puzzle to solve or am wanting to further explore human behavior and motivation. There are different types of crime fiction to satiate a variety of my reading moods, whether I want to read something funny, thought provoking, heavy in atmosphere, lyrical, suspenseful, or serious.

There are those who snub their noses at genre fiction, including crime fiction. I think they just haven't met the right mystery for them yet. While crime fiction is known for being plot driven, it isn't always. Nor does a good crime fiction novel have to sacrifice well developed characters, a strong setting and good writing. The best, in fact, often include all of those qualities.

Yes, it's true. I am crazy. Just when I start to wonder if I should give up blogging, I decide to try my hand at hosting a reading challenge. As if there aren't enough challenges out there already. Maybe only one or two people join. That's okay. We'll have a great time and maybe discover new authors and books to try!

The focus of this challenge is to explore the different types of crime fiction out there. If you are new to the crime fiction genre, want to step outside your comfort zone and try another kind of mystery or are a mystery lover needing an excuse to join another crime fiction related challenge, here's your chance!

As sources go, there are a number of them that offer a wide range of sub-genres to crime fiction. For the purposes of this challenge, I've narrowed it down to the following because they tend to encompass the full breadth of mystery sub-genres. Within each sub-genre are even more categories (for example, add in a bit of romance or fantasy for good measure). So you have a never ending list of choices to choose from!

The Whodunit: The classic crime puzzle. The story generally revolves around determine who committed the crime, and potentially apprehending them. Some Whodunits, called "fair play mysteries", will include all of the clues available in the text so that a careful reader can solve the crime on his or her own.

Locked Room Mystery: Like the Whodunit, there is a puzzle (crime) to solve. However in this instance, the crime has taken place under impossible circumstances, such as in a locked room or on an island with no way to exit or enter.

Cozy: The nice person's mystery. Often the crime, particularly if it's violent, occurs off scene. Sex and language are on the cleaner side. Humor is a common feature of the cozy.

Hard-Boiled/Noir: Often cynical, bleak or realistic, hard-boiled and noir stories often focus more on the characters involved instead of the crime. Violence and sex are not downplayed.

The Inverted Detective Story: In this style of story, the person perpetrating the crime is known up front. The point of the story is to see how (or if) the detective goes about solving the crime and how the perpetrator reacts to the investigation.

The Historical Whodunnit: Simply put, this is a mystery set in a historical setting. Often the mystery has some historical significance and features detection methods that are appropriate for that era.

The Police Procedural: Instead of featuring a independent detective, the police are investigating the crime in these stories. They often focus on the actual methods that police officers use to solve crimes.

The Professional Thriller: This kind of mystery involves a professional who is not involved directly in law enforcement, such a lawyer or doctor, who nonetheless finds themselves investigating a crime.

The Spy Novel: Related to the other professional mysteries, spy novels focus on intelligence operatives as they work to prevent or avenge some criminal plot. Spy novels can feature either in fantastic or realistic settings.

Caper Stories: While other crime and mystery stories look at the aftermath of crimes, caper stories feature criminals as the lead characters. The story usually details the planning and commission of a crime.

The Psychological Suspense: In these stories, the detective story takes on a psychological component.

Spoofs and Parodies: Spoofs and parodies make light of crime fiction, often with the goal of commenting on the conventions of the genre. Many feature famous characters, e.g. Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Philip Marlowe, or pastiches of those characters.

The Merely Mystery Reading Challenge will last the entire year (January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012), giving participants a chance to read at their own pace. In addition, to make things easy, participants can complete one of two levels. One is for those of you who want a more relaxed challenge while the other is for those more serious about exploring the various sub-genres:
Down on Her/His Luck Gumshoe - Read two or more books falling into any of the above sub-genres. Each book can be from the same sub-genre or can be varied among the different sub-genres. You pick the combination and the number of books.

Shamus Who Has Seen It All - Read at least one book from each of the sub-genres for a total of 12 books. If you are feeling ambitious, read more than one book from each sub-genre.

Making a reading list ahead of time is not mandatory, but it's fun--not only for you, but also for your fellow readers. Even if you don't stick to the list, we'd love it if you could share a few of the titles you are considering reading.

*Audio books and graphic novels are welcome.
*Crossover books from other challenges are okay.
*Cross-genre books are perfectly fine.

To sign up, please fill out the below form. The challenge is open to everyone, regardless of whether you have a blog. If you have a blog, please provide a link to your initial blog post committing to the challenge. Participants without blogs can post reviews on general review sites such as LibraryThing, Goodreads or Shelfari. I will be creating a post in which all participants will be able to link their reviews so that everyone can follow everyone's progress and perhaps get a few good mystery recommendations. [Edited to add: You can post your reviews following this link.]

Sign ups are open ended and so you are welcome to sign up at any time throughout the year.

There will be a prize! The biggest reward will be completion of the challenge, of course, but isn't it more fun when, at the end of the day, there's a drawing for a prize? For all those who complete the challenge, your name will be entered into a drawing for an as-of-yet-unspecified prize.

If there is an interest (and volunteers), I would like to feature guest posts from authors and readers on the topic of crime fiction throughout the course of the challenge. It won't be every day. Maybe once or twice a month at most, depending on volunteer interest (so, if you are interested, please let me know! Shoot me an e-mail).

I hope you will join me for the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge!

(*Let me know if I have forgotten something, please. This is my first time hosting a challenge, and I'm sure I missed something!)

(Before using, please save a copy to your own computer & upload from there. Thank you!)

© 2011, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. What a great idea for a challenge! I'm in!

  2. I love mysteries and will read a-plenty during the year because I always do. I'm certainly not a snob when it comes to mysteries and love all genres...even if I can't always decide which genre the book belongs to.

  3. I don't tend to read a lot of mysteries, but your post has gotten me all fired up to explore a few! I am not sure I will officially join the challenge, but I think I will be expanding my reading to read a few more books in this genre! Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Love mysteries! Love that you are hosting! I'm always reading mysteries, so of course I'll join you. I'm just going to read a pile of mysteries,k? Filling in on series I've been working on, starting new series, maybe even get up to date on a few.
    I'll officially sign up later, but I'm in.
    (Let me know if I can help you in any way)

  5. Nice to see you back here Wendy! I've sworn off challenges because I always seem to fail at them but will look forward to seeing all of the good mysteries that will be recommended to me as a result of yours!

  6. Book snobs turn me off! This sounds like a great challenge and a lot of fun!

  7. I am in I can totally do one mystery in a year :)

  8. I am definitely in - I'll add my link when I find a minute to write up a post. :)

  9. Yvonne - Yay! I am so glad you joined!

    Jenclair - I'm like you in that I enjoy reading just about all genres. It is sometimes hard to tell what genre a book falls into, isn't it?

    Thanks for signing up!

    Heather - I have so many in my TBR collection, I figure this is a good way to finally get to more of them. I tend to read a lot of mysteries anyway, but any excuse is a good one!

    Elizabeth - Aw, thank you! I need to work on series I've started too . . . I will definitely let you know if I need help. I appreciate the offer!

    Kathleen - Thanks, Kathleen! I did disappear for awhile, didn't I? Mouse had a rough November, health wise and so I wasn't able to get to the computer. :-(

    Staci - I hope it will be! I am looking forward to it. :-)

    Caspette - Yay! Thanks for joining.

    Carrie - Thanks, Carrie! I can't wait to see what you end up reading. :-)

  10. Thank you for hosting. Great idea. Looking forward to this one!!!

  11. I can't resist this...and I had told myself that maybe this would be the year of no challenges. But this sounds like such a fun challenge and I have been in the mood for mysteries for awhile now.

  12. Wendy, is there a link to a place where we can post our reads (I've already read one for the challenge)and see what others have read?

  13. Since I suck at reading lately I'm not going to join (maybe I will unofficially later) but I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE your categories!!

  14. I can't wait to do this. It's a chance to re-read books like Suspect X and hunt down Agatha Christie. Argh! I want to join the Gumshoe challenge because of Ace Attorney, but I'll most likely read all the subgenres.... :/

  15. Cheryl - Yay! I am so glad you are participating! Thank you.

    Samantha - It's a good excuse to read a mystery or two. :-)

    Jenclair - I haven't posted it yet. Probably closer to January 1st, the start of the challenge. :-)

    Trish - I completely understand! I am allowing myself to join a handful this year, although I'll probably regret it later.

    Eustacia - I think it will be fun. :-) I am glad you are joining in!

  16. Hi Wendy - I just saw this and whoo hoo! I've signed up just now, and linked to my post with some of the titles I am considering. This is so exciting! Not just that you are hosting a challenge, but that it's for mysteries! :-) Let me know if I can help in some way......*rubs hands with glee* I was wondering if you could add a sub-category for supernatural mysteries? That would take it to 13, a lovely superstitious number :-) just an idea, as I can think of at least 5 series that would fall into this - Phil Rickman, Yasmine Galenorn, Juliet Blackwood, Dolores di Ricio, Charles Todd.....Kat Richardson.

  17. Great challenge! I'm shooting for "Shamus who has seen it all". I adore mysteries.

    Ellie Oberth

  18. Susan - I am so glad you joined! I am a bbig fan of supernatural mysteries. I see them more as a combination of genres and so didn't include a specific category for them here. Same with romantic suspense. I think though that the supernatural mysteries could fit in the above subgenres, depending on the mystery aspect. I am really flexible in terms of what book will fit where and crossover genres are more than welcome.

  19. Meaghan - Thanks so much for joining!

    Ellie - I am going to try for that one two, I think. :-). Thank you for signing up!

    Neer - Thanks for joining! Any excuse to read a mystery!

  20. Woohoo! I'm so glad you've joined, Melody. :-)

  21. I've finally added myself to Mr. Linky and written a post! I've already read one book for the challenge (Brother Cadfael #1). Now I just need to write up my thoughts :)

  22. Joining late but looking forward to the challenge. It will definitely be a challenge for me... not the number of books but finding something in all categories.

  23. I am definitely joining this and will link a post as soon as I write one. I'm a mystery reader so one in each category is what I'm shooting for!


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