The Adventure Mystery
The Hard-Boiled Mystery is a detective story gritty and violent with blood, violence, and sex. It uses graphic sex and violence, vivid but often sordid urban backgrounds, and rapid dialogue of slang, sometimes shameless, rude language defining a character. The protagonist is rough, mocking with a lot of Street Smarts, who solves mysteries with dogged determination rather than amazing perception.
"I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun."—Philip Marlowe, “Farewell, My Lovely.”
Misa Ramirez says, “The Cozy Mystery is light, slow-paced, and the murder quite civilized. Sex happens elsewhere, and there are no naughty words.” The lawbreaking and detection occur in a small, friendly community. The protagonist in a cozy mystery is frequently a female, amateur sleuth.
Ramirez says, “The Police Procedural is almost always a law enforcement agent of some sort. The details of the mystery plot are the focus, as opposed to the heavier character development of the other categories. [. . .] Procedures must be followed, and crime details are key. PD James and Tony Hillerman write police procedurals.”
Ramirez explains a type of hybrid mystery falls someplace between the hard-boiled and the cozy. It’s not as violent as the hard-boiled but has more passion and hostility than the cozy. She calls this hybrid a soft-boiled mystery and notes it may have humorous elements. The protagonist can be a detective or a greenhorn. This hybrid has “mild trauma description, an easy-going leadup to negligible sex, and a slight number of naughty words.”
Now I'm ranting: the label, soft-boiled mystery, makes no sense at all and is—to my ears— jarring. I get a mind-pop of a mystery book boiling in a pan for three minutes. A better handle for a mystery tale halfway between the hard-boiled mystery and the cozy mystery is Adventure Mystery. An adventure mystery often has a wise-cracking or defective detective.
The fast-talking detective solves a great mystery, often with a quirky and humorous approach. Were Sherlock Holmes to utter occasional jokes and Watson to act a little quirkier, their story would be an Adventure Mystery. I delight when a detective gives a playful, witty, sarcastic commentary on events in the Adventure Mystery. Parker's Spenser, Crais' Elvis Cole/Joe Pike, and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum are Adventure Mysteries.
I proudly think of Crown Hunt as an Adventure Mystery.