Cozy and Sleuth and Noir, Oh My!

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When children are young, they have fewer labels and boxes to organize the world around them into. For a while everything with four legs is dog...everyone who has glasses like Grandpa Joe is Grandpa Joe. Cognition is not yet refined enough to identify subcategories. For a long time, that's how my view of the mystery genre functioned.  Mystery books had detectives, amateur or professional, solving some sort of crime or questionable occurrence. That was all there was...that was all there would ever be. Anything that didn't fit into that depiction was surely meant to be housed in a different genre. Sometimes, you come across a book that opens a door for you, and that's what THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin did for me.

                                                       Westing cover.jpg

First off, I'd never read a book with so many characters, all of them equally important to the plot, all of them developed and full of the kind of mysteries that just come along with the human condition and the secrets we carry. I loved them all, but Turtle Wexler was my immediate favorite. I could have thrived on the mysteries embedded in the heirs themselves...but the plot came with more! 

The clues in the story were so intriguing, they made my mind race with the desire to see if I could piece things together faster than the characters. It suddenly hit me...that this WAS some form of mystery; puzzle pieces coming together slowly but surely. There was no Sherlock Holmes, no private eye on a case, but there were question marks on every page that needed to be answered. It was, I decided, the question marks that really made a mystery a mystery. Sure, we ask why in a lot of books; in fictions or fantasies or science fiction. Why is this character motivated to do A, B, or C? But a mystery book thrives on the questions, on making you itch to turn the page so you can watch how all the question marks come together to form a bigger picture.

From then on, it was a domino affect. I started to look at how many subcategories there were in ALL literary genres...or books that were hybrids of more than one thing all at once.  Cozy mysteries, sleuth mysteries, suspense, noir, crime, and sooo many more! They were all the same books I'd been looking at before, but now that the door was open, I was seeing the world of mystery novels with a brand-new perspective.

When you think Mystery, what style of mystery pops into your mind?

Where there any books that changed/widened your understanding of the mystery genre?