Suspense and Thriller Fiction

Given how closely the concepts connect to one another, it can be difficult to categorize suspense fiction separately from mystery and thriller fiction. Therefore what are the distinctions between the two terms?

Suspense Fiction Vs. Thriller Fiction

In a suspense book, the reader is aware of events that the protagonist is unaware of. This increases the reader’s uneasiness. Thus, this makes the book more intriguing than a mystery or thriller.

In a thriller, the protagonist is nearly always in peril. The story’s quick pacing adds to the suspense rather than the way the story develops. Unlike mysteries, thrillers are about the strain of high-stakes situations, not about solving a riddle.

The narrative often revolves around a protagonist attempting to solve a crime in a mystery. Because the reader is privy to the same knowledge as the investigator, there is often less suspense in this genre than in others. To generate suspense in mystery novels is to provide hints that confuse readers and the expectation of uncovering the mystery. A book can comprise different genres.

The subgenres of Suspense and Thriller Fiction


There is a great plethora of physical activity in this subgenre, and the protagonist must battle for survival or rescue a victim of a crime or abduction. Often, the protagonist is a present or retired member of the military forces, special forces, or another government agency. Villains are usually situated worldwide, and their pursuit of them frequently crosses international boundaries.


In this subgenre, espionage and organized crime are treated with black humor. Protagonists often display cutting wit while pursuing daring endeavors such as investigating crimes or foiling the nefarious schemes of hidden organizations.


The protagonist must confront and overcome a large, strong organization or group to apprehend a murderer or end a harmful plan. These tales often include protagonists who are academics, amateur investigators, or journalists who assist in the overthrow of secret organizations or conspiracies. Common topics include rumors, falsehoods, propaganda, hidden stories, and counter-propaganda.


The protagonist is confronted with an extensive criminal plan, such as murder, abduction, or theft. Often, these narratives begin with the protagonist going about their everyday life before getting engaged in a crime (a victim or aiding the victim). They then employ wit and specialized expertise to assist authorities in solving the crime, with or without their assistance.


The protagonist in this subgenre is confronted with a catastrophic event. In which they must either escape or put an end to.

Natural catastrophes

  • Earthquakes
  • Meteor Impacts
  • Tsunamis

Human-made disasters

  • Cyber-attacks
  • Nuclear explosions that shut down critical infrastructure
  • Use of a Biological Weapon


This subgenre features covert operatives and is often set during times of conflict (war). Frequently, the agent turns rogue to expose corruption among their colleagues. The common topics are:

  • Rivalries and intrigues between significant countries.
  • Corruption within contemporary intelligence services.
  • Renegade states.
  • Worldwide criminal organizations.
  • Maritime piracy.
  • Global terrorist networks.
  • Technical sabotage.


In this type of suspense and thriller fiction, forensic scientists are crucial to investigating a crime. The frequent themes are finding evidence at a crime scene, blood splatter, fingerprints, bones, DNA, and other forensic elements. A race against time to apprehend the culprit before another person is killed or another significant crime is committed.


This subgenre is set in a historical period and contains historical facts. Real historical people are often incorporated into the narrative or seen through the eyes of a fictitious character. These narratives are usually centered around real-world historical puzzles, records, or conspiracies but include alternative realities. Certain books in this genre alternate between contemporary people and the historical events or documents they discover/research.


The storyline of this subgenre revolves on legal problems or courtroom dramas. Typically, the protagonist is an attorney who faces a risk of harm and solves the case when the police are incapable or corrupt to do so. The protagonist’s life and the lives of their significant others or family are often jeopardized.


In this subgenre, the protagonist works in the medical profession or is closely associated with it and must use their medical expertise to solve a mystery, cure a virus, stop a pandemic or apprehend the perpetrator of a medical-related crime. Frequently, the narrative takes place in medical settings. Ultimately, the facts that bring the culprit to justice (or result in a treatment for a fatal illness) require medical research or specialized medical expertise.


The protagonist on this subgenre is a current or former military member who must utilize their expertise to unravel a mystery or solve a murder. Additionally, it includes narratives set on military bases or warships. The themes are a brotherhood, vengeance for wrongs, safeguarding family members, cartel involvement, and renegade militias.

Mystery Thriller

The narrative in this subgenre focuses on the protagonists solving a mystery before running out of time. The protagonist is often on the run or racing against time to investigate the crime or discover a solution.


In this subgenre, there are supernatural aspects, and some individuals exhibit superhuman powers. Otherworldly aspects are often presented as an opposing force, although the storyline and tone are unmistakably thriller-like.


The protagonist is associated with the government and is tasked with resolving an international crime or problem. Often, the narratives revolve around a political power struggle and may occur on a national or worldwide scale. This subgenre usually crosses over with conspiracy thrillers.


The protagonist finds themselves in a predicament that challenges their sanity or mental condition. Often, the narratives highlight protagonist’s unstable or delusory psychological states and are presented from the perspective of mentally stressed individuals. In this subgenre, there is an evident fusion of drama, mystery, and action clichés.


A type of thriller and suspense fiction in which a religious item or sect-held secret is uncovered and several organizations fight for control. These tales make extensive use of religious history and mythology, and the protagonist often has extensive knowledge or experience with religious education or upbringing.


This hybrid genre incorporates elements of science fiction, thrillers, espionage fiction, and action literature. There is technical information about different disciplines’ technology and mechanics (espionage, martial arts, politics). There is often an emphasis on military activity.

Young Adult

It is a subgenre of thriller and suspense fiction in which the protagonist is a teenager or young adult. Often, there are lessons to be gained about “coming of age,” such as loneliness, romantic relationships, and surviving without parents. Friends or love interests often assist the protagonist in resolving a problem or evading the enemy, and thrilling chase sequences are the norm.

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