The Crime Fiction genre can come under several different names - murder mystery, detective or police novels for example. However, the narrative is often similar, usually involving a crime and the ensuing quest to catch the criminal or bring to light other details surrounding the incident. The purpose of a mystery novel is often to solve a puzzle and create a feeling of resolution with the audience.
Crime texts have various identifiable features and conventions:
The crime - this is often central to the plot and can be written to occur before the book opens but is most commonly depicted within the opening chapter(s).
The criminal - this is often someone the reader gets to know as the novel progresses but does not readily suspect. The reader should be surprised when finding out the criminal's identity though their identity should make sense upon reviewing clues.
The victim - this character often dies/is not present for the majority of the novel and the reader gets to know them through flashbacks. It is important, however, for the reader to gain information about the victim to provide clues - motive etc.
The detective - this character is often the main focus throughout the text, whether they are a detective by profession or through circumstance and the text is often written from their perspective.
The clues - these are essential within a crime novel. Clues can be obvious or hidden, and crime novels usually involve at least one 'red herring' - a clue that seems important but is actually a misdirection.
The Crime Genre also contains several traditional elements:
- The seemingly perfect crime
- The wrongly accused suspect at whom circumstantial evidence points
- The shenanigans of dim-witted police
- The greater powers of observation and superior mind of the detective
- The misjudgement or underestimation of the detective by superiors and/or characters of a 'higher' standing
Examples of these can be seen in 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the 'Nancy Drew' series by Carolyn Keene.