Difference Between Mystery and Suspense

Main Difference – Mystery vs Suspense

Mystery and suspense are two popular genres in fiction. Although both these genres deal with crime, there is a subtle difference between them. The main difference between mystery and suspense lies in the way the book is written; in a mystery novel, the readers don’t find out who is the villain until the end, but in a suspense novel, the readers know who is the villain, but they don’t know whether he’ll be caught or not. This is the main difference between mystery and suspense. However, most modern novels contain elements of both these genres.

This article covers,

1. What Does Mystery Mean – Meaning of the term in Literature, Characteristics of Mystery Genre

2. What Does Suspense Mean – Meaning of the term in Literature, Characteristics of Suspense Genre

3. Difference Between Mystery and SuspenseDifference Between Mystery and Suspense - infographic

What Does Mystery Mean

A mystery is something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. A mystery novel usually involves a  mysterious death or a crime to be solved. The protagonist of the story is usually a detective who is trying to solve the mystery. The number of characters in the story might depend on the size of the mystery. The reader meets each character and develops a sense of who might have committed the crime.

The setting can be restricted to a single place. Most of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, for example, are based on one setting. (“And Then There Were None”, “Death on the Nile” etc.) The setting can also be varied.

The plot of the story won’t be very complex. It is often simple so that the readers can focus carefully. However, this doesn’t mean that solving the crime is easy. The author will also include several red herrings or false clues to mislead the readers. The mystery readers usually gain satisfaction from solving the crime along with the detective and finding out who committed the crime. The person who committed the crime is usually someone the readers have already met in the novel.

Difference Between Mystery and Suspense

What Does Suspense Mean

Suspense is a state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. Suspense is a key element used in thrillers, mystery and detective novels. In a suspense novel, the protagonists, as well as the readers, might know who committed the crime. But, the plot is woven around catching the villain. The feeling of suspense is created since the readers do not know how or if the villain will be caught or stopped in time. At the same time, the readers may be aware of things unknown to the protagonist. For example, the readers may see the terrorists plant the bomb, but the protagonists might be unaware of this. Readers gain satisfaction from this type of novels from the survival and triumph of the protagonist.

Main Difference - Mystery vs Suspense

Difference Between Mystery and Suspense


Mystery: The plot revolves around who committed the crime.

Suspense: The plot revolves around the capture of the villain and stopping his evil plans.


Mystery: The person who committed the crime will be revealed at the end.

Suspense: The readers know who committed the crime.


Mystery: Readers have the same information as the protagonists.

Suspense: Readers may be aware of more information than the protagonist.

Feelings created

Mystery: Curiosity and inquisitiveness might drive the readers till the end.

Suspense: Suspense, excitement, apprehension are the main feelings created by this kind of fiction.


Mystery: The villain turns out to be one of the characters the readers have already met.

Suspense: The readers may meet the villain only at the very end of the story.

Image Courtesy:

“League of shadows.” By NickStuy – Own work (Public Domain) via

“Mystery January 1934″  By A Tower magazine – Scanned cover of pulp magazine (Public Domain) via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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