Anything Legal, Legal Thrillers, Legal Mysteries and More discussion

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message 1: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Hello Everyone,

I hope your Sunday is going well and you are looking forward to the upcoming week. I have a question for you, "What is the difference(s) between a Thriller and a Mystery"? This group focus' primarily on legal thrillers, however, are legal thrillers really a thriller or a mystery? Do you think they encompass a little of both? I love to hear your thoughts.


message 2: by Belle (new)

Belle Blackburn | 19 comments Great question. I am interested in the answer. I am thinking my book is a mystery and not a thriller. Does a thriller have to have a car chase??


message 3: by Skye (new)

Skye | 325 comments I think this is a matter of personal opinion and nuance.


message 4: by Marian (new)

Marian That would depend.. there's always 2 sides of a story.Depends on the delivery and how they are told.A mystery is like,solving a puzzle,right?Thrillers are exciting and confront danger.


message 5: by Marian (new)

Marian And THEN..there's suspense(some books just don't have enough)what about,the reader knowing something that the main character in the book doesn't?


message 6: by David (new)

David Freas (quillracer) | 163 comments I've always heard the following definitions:
Mystery: What did happen in the past (Who killed Cock Robin?).
Thriller: What is happening now (Who's killing Cock Robin?).
Suspense: What will happen in the future (Who wants to kill Cock Robin?).


message 7: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Belle wrote: "Great question. I am interested in the answer. I am thinking my book is a mystery and not a thriller. Does a thriller have to have a car chase??"

Absolutely. I learned some time ago that a thriller should be fast paced, heart pounding, confront danger. I would say car chases falls into all three.


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Marian wrote: "That would depend.. there's always 2 sides of a story.Depends on the delivery and how they are told.A mystery is like,solving a puzzle,right?Thrillers are exciting and confront danger."

Hi Marian. I agree with you on bother counts.


message 9: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Marian wrote: "And THEN..there's suspense(some books just don't have enough)what about,the reader knowing something that the main character in the book doesn't?"

Again, right on point. I like to use foreshadowing. It gives a little hint to the reader, that the main character may not know.


message 10: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Hello Everyone,

Thanks for your valuable input. Great points and right on. An author I know, Jodie Renner, wrote a book about how to write a killer thriller. She went into, extensively, the difference between a thriller and mystery.

In a mystery, no one know who the killer is. A mystery is more cerebral. The reader is trying to solve a puzzle on who the killer may be. The protagonist drives the story.

In a thriller, the reader knows who the villain is. The protagonist tries to out wit the villain before he kills again. A thriller should be fast paced, heart pounding and confront danger. In a thriller the villain drives the story.

Using this characteristics, it leads to another question. Are legal thrillers just thrillers or do they encompass traits of a mystery? Should they actually be legal mysteries?


message 11: by Marian (new)

Marian I actually think a legal mystery would be something like,one of John Grishams books.Or better still Defending Jacob..have you read this book Michael?


message 12: by V.S. (new)

V.S. Kemanis (vskemanis) | 9 comments Michael wrote: "... Are legal thrillers just thrillers or do they encompass traits of a mystery? Should they actually be legal mysteries?"
This is interesting to me. I decided to call my Dana Hargrove novels "legal mysteries" because they have elements of legal thriller and mystery. Many of the events in the stories are actually mysteries to the protagonist (the prosecutor Dana Hargrove), while the reader may know many of the details before she does. The books also have a bit of the police procedural and courtroom drama. They are not thrill-rides all the way, but are heavy on character development, then the suspense builds and they become more heart-pounding toward the end. The books I like to read, whether legal thriller or mystery or literary fiction, have to have great character development and building suspense. If it's all plot and no character, the thrill is gone.


message 13: by Jerri (new)

Jerri Blair (jerriblair) | 2465 comments I think an element of mystery adds much to a legal thriller. For instance, even if the defendant is guilty, there can be some lingering question as to his or her guilt until the truth is revealed through the legal process. Clues as to what really happened that led to the legal proceeding can help to pave the way to the reveal.


message 14: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments V.S. wrote: "Michael wrote: "... Are legal thrillers just thrillers or do they encompass traits of a mystery? Should they actually be legal mysteries?"
This is interesting to me. I decided to call my Dana Hargr..."


Hi V.S.

I like your thinking. My legal thriller series, Croker Diaries, I would also categorize as a legal thriller with a good taste of mystery.

I like the way you have developed the events of the story around your protagonist(Dana Hargrove). One of the important elements in a mystery.

I agree with you, character development is very important and helps in building the story.


message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Jerri wrote: "I think an element of mystery adds much to a legal thriller. For instance, even if the defendant is guilty, there can be some lingering question as to his or her guilt until the truth is revealed t..."

Right on Jerri. I couldn't have said it better myself.


message 16: by Jerri (new)

Jerri Blair (jerriblair) | 2465 comments I agree with you, Micheal, that character development is essential to almost any story including a legal thriller. The reader needs to feel the humanity of the character. I also tend to build heroes and villains. I have created some pretty awful villains, but I try to give even my villains a touch of humanity. My main star, a criminal defense attorney, is definitely a hero, but troubled with many human foibles. He struggles with his ego, something most good trial attorneys have to do(like quarterbacks, you have to be a leader in the courtroom and in controlling your client), but overall he's a great guy. My other courtroom characters run the gamut of good and evil, but all have a distinct personality.


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Hi Jerri, so true to make the main character human. Some of the best thrillers/mysteries, any genre, shows the protagonist as this doer of good, but also creates flaws in his/hers character. It brings a sense of realism.


message 18: by Janessa (new)

Janessa I think the idea of a thriller is fairly new concept. What I mean is the more classic mysteries like Sherlock Holmes, where he solved the crime by using his intelligent, and while there were some elements of a thriller, mainly duels, cliffhangers, that sort of thing. I think the edge of your set, confronting danger wasn't there at the time, because of the Victorian lifestyle. Therefore I would categorize Sherlock Holmes as mystery. Now a days I think because of movies we seem to have more of thrillers that have elements of action and adventure with a mystery thrown in to keep it interesting.


message 19: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments That is an interesting point Janessa. Sherlock Holmes is a mystery series with some thriller elements. The thriller element has certainly evolved over the years and has become it's own genre. As I have said early, many of today's thrillers, including legal thrillers have both elements of a thriller and mystery.


message 20: by Holly (new)

Holly | 17 comments A lot of them now have both aspects, don't they?


message 21: by Janessa (new)

Janessa I think also that the way we get our entertainment has change as well. Back in the 19th century you either read or what to the theatre to be entertained, but now we have t.v., movies, sports, music, and books. I think at least that the thriller is used more for entertainment then anything else.


message 22: by Holly (new)

Holly | 17 comments I agree Janessa. I think it's more of a label or tag than anything else.


message 23: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Hi Holly. Yes they do. I know several authors now calling their books legal mysteries.


message 24: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Janessa wrote: "I think also that the way we get our entertainment has change as well. Back in the 19th century you either read or what to the theatre to be entertained, but now we have t.v., movies, sports, music..."

Absolutely. People today want fast pace, heart pounding and confront danger with a side of mystery.


message 25: by Holly (new)

Holly | 17 comments Hello Michael. I've heard that too. I don't know; I think legal thriller sounds better. To each their own though, right?


message 26: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Holly wrote: "I agree Janessa. I think it's more of a label or tag than anything else."

If you look up the definition of what a legal thriller is, it is defined as a sub-genre of both a thriller and crime fiction. Crime fiction is the mystery.


message 27: by Holly (new)

Holly | 17 comments Ah, I see.


message 28: by Janessa (new)

Janessa Michael wrote: "Holly wrote: "I agree Janessa. I think it's more of a label or tag than anything else."

If you look up the definition of what a legal thriller is, it is defined as a sub-genre of both a thriller a..."

I think also that some genres are getting lump together, for example if you go to a bookstore you will notice that they shelf the science fiction and fantasy books together, even though they do have some differences. I think its the same way with mysteries, crimes, and thrillers.


message 29: by Holly (new)

Holly | 17 comments Janessa wrote: "Michael wrote: "Holly wrote: "I agree Janessa. I think it's more of a label or tag than anything else."

If you look up the definition of what a legal thriller is, it is defined as a sub-genre of b..."


Exactly!


message 30: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Janessa wrote: "Michael wrote: "Holly wrote: "I agree Janessa. I think it's more of a label or tag than anything else."

If you look up the definition of what a legal thriller is, it is defined as a sub-genre of b..."


It is amazing to see how things have changed over time. You blink and it is different.


message 31: by Holly (new)

Holly | 17 comments Tell me about it! Sometimes it's nice to have things stay the same.


message 32: by Celia (new)

Celia Conrad | 15 comments Really enjoyed reading all those comments.

My books are probably more mysteries than thrillers. I always think of thrillers as being visceral, not that there isn't plenty of murder in my books but you just don't get the graphic descriptions...

I think legal mysteries/thrillers have a common thread in that they tend to be cerebral with lots of legal issues and complex plotting and unexpected twists.


message 33: by Jerri (new)

Jerri Blair (jerriblair) | 2465 comments My books are also more mystery than thriller. There has to be an overarching mystery to make it a good story. It was interesting to me that Holmes was used by Janessa as an example of a mystery with thriller elements. I just recently posted on my Goodreads blog about how much Holmes helps me in my writing. When I'm deciding what facts should be inserted to clue the reader in to the final solution, I always approach the mystery part of the story with Holmes as my muse.


message 34: by Celia (new)

Celia Conrad | 15 comments Jerri wrote: "My books are also more mystery than thriller. There has to be an overarching mystery to make it a good story. It was interesting to me that Holmes was used by Janessa as an example of a mystery wit..."

Hi Jerri,
I've always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and his powers of deduction. Rather a good muse to have when writing legal mysteries...


message 35: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Celia wrote: "Really enjoyed reading all those comments.

My books are probably more mysteries than thrillers. I always think of thrillers as being visceral, not that there isn't plenty of murder in my books bu..."


Hi Jerri,

I just finished adding a book to the bookshelf and I thought of you. The book is entitled "Son of Holmes" by John Lescroart. I see Holmes has helped you in your writing, you may find this interesting. Let me know.


message 36: by Jerri (new)

Jerri Blair (jerriblair) | 2465 comments Thanks, Michael. I'll put it on my list.


message 37: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Enjoy the read!


message 38: by Celia (new)

Celia Conrad | 15 comments Jerri wrote: "Thanks, Michael. I'll put it on my list."

Yes, it does look good!


message 39: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Hi Gail,

Suspense is definitely an important part of any thriller, and certainly any mystery.

I certainly agree with you, I want to be engaged in the plot and one of the important keys to that is a good dialogue between the stories characters.


message 40: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments You are more than welcome. If you have any ideas for the group, please feel free to share them.


message 41: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Hi Gail,

I can't agree with you more a thriller should include suspense. The scenario you gave, "the reader knows who the killer is while the detective tries to figure it out", falls more under the definition of a thriller rather than a mystery. I would like to recommend a great book entitled, "Writing a Killer Thriller", by Jodie Renner. It is a great read for authors of this genre as well as readers. The definitions I have listed above come from this book. A great reference to have.


message 42: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Hi Gail,

I don't think there is only one definition of what a "Mystery" or "Thriller" should be. I like what everyone has posted and all the different viewpoints. I believe it is very subjective and it all depends on the reader. I do have to say, whether it is a mystery or thriller, suspense is a common element and has to be present.


message 43: by Pete (new)

Pete Morin | 123 comments I asked Dennis Lehane once what he thought the difference was. We were in a bar at a conference.

He said, “more than four dead bodies, it’s a thriller.”

He wasn’t totally serious, but he had a point. In the classic mystery or crime story, there is (1) a victim, and (2) a perp. Allowing for the ending where the perp gets it, you have two bodies. Give yourself a little flexibility to have a (3) innocent bystander and (4) a co-conspirator, and that’s about all a mystery will sustain.


message 44: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments Well said Pete.


message 45: by Michael (new)

Michael Burton | 2642 comments There are so many different genres today. Maybe create your own...something new.


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