Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012

January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012
There are those who snub their noses at genre fiction, including crime fiction. I think they just haven't met the right mystery for them yet. While crime fiction is known for being plot driven, it isn't always. Nor does a good crime fiction novel have to sacrifice well developed characters, a strong setting and good writing. The best, in fact, often include all of those qualities.
Yes, it's true. I am crazy. Just when I start to wonder if I should give up blogging, I decide to try my hand at hosting a reading challenge. As if there aren't enough challenges out there already. Maybe only one or two people join. That's okay. We'll have a great time and maybe discover new authors and books to try!
The focus of this challenge is to explore the different types of crime fiction out there. If you are new to the crime fiction genre, want to step outside your comfort zone and try another kind of mystery or are a mystery lover needing an excuse to join another crime fiction related challenge, here's your chance!
As sources go, there are a number of them that offer a wide range of sub-genres to crime fiction. For the purposes of this challenge, I've narrowed it down to the following because they tend to encompass the full breadth of mystery sub-genres. Within each sub-genre are even more categories (for example, add in a bit of romance or fantasy for good measure). So you have a never ending list of choices to choose from!
    • The Whodunit: The classic crime puzzle. The story generally revolves around determine who committed the crime, and potentially apprehending them. Some Whodunits, called "fair play mysteries", will include all of the clues available in the text so that a careful reader can solve the crime on his or her own.
    • Locked Room Mystery: Like the Whodunit, there is a puzzle (crime) to solve. However in this instance, the crime has taken place under impossible circumstances, such as in a locked room or on an island with no way to exit or enter.
    • Cozy: The nice person's mystery. Often the crime, particularly if it's violent, occurs off scene. Sex and language are on the cleaner side. Humor is a common feature of the cozy.
    • Hard-Boiled/Noir: Often cynical, bleak or realistic, hard-boiled and noir stories often focus more on the characters involved instead of the crime. Violence and sex are not downplayed.
    • The Inverted Detective Story: In this style of story, the person perpetrating the crime is known up front. The point of the story is to see how (or if) the detective goes about solving the crime and how the perpetrator reacts to the investigation.
    • The Historical Whodunnit: Simply put, this is a mystery set in a historical setting. Often the mystery has some historical significance and features detection methods that are appropriate for that era.
    • The Police Procedural: Instead of featuring a independent detective, the police are investigating the crime in these stories. They often focus on the actual methods that police officers use to solve crimes.
    • The Professional Thriller: This kind of mystery involves a professional who is not involved directly in law enforcement, such a lawyer or doctor, who nonetheless finds themselves investigating a crime.
    • The Spy Novel: Related to the other professional mysteries, spy novels focus on intelligence operatives as they work to prevent or avenge some criminal plot. Spy novels can feature either in fantastic or realistic settings.
    • Caper Stories: While other crime and mystery stories look at the aftermath of crimes, caper stories feature criminals as the lead characters. The story usually details the planning and commission of a crime.
    • The Psychological Suspense: In these stories, the detective story takes on a psychological component.
    • Spoofs and Parodies: Spoofs and parodies make light of crime fiction, often with the goal of commenting on the conventions of the genre. Many feature famous characters, e.g. Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Philip Marlowe, or pastiches of those characters.
The Merely Mystery Reading Challenge will last the entire year (January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012), giving participants a chance to read at their own pace. In addition, to make things easy, participants can complete one of two levels. One is for those of you who want a more relaxed challenge while the other is for those more serious about exploring the various sub-genres:
Down on Her/His Luck Gumshoe - Read two or more books falling into any of the above sub-genres. Each book can be from the same sub-genre or can be varied among the different sub-genres. You pick the combination and the number of books.
Shamus Who Has Seen It All - Read at least one book from each of the sub-genres for a total of 12 books. If you are feeling ambitious, read more than one book from each sub-genre.
Making a reading list ahead of time is not mandatory, but it's fun--not only for you, but also for your fellow readers. Even if you don't stick to the list, we'd love it if you could share a few of the titles you are considering reading.
*Audio books and graphic novels are welcome.
*Crossover books from other challenges are okay.
*Cross-genre books are perfectly fine.
To sign up, please fill out the below form. The challenge is open to everyone, regardless of whether you have a blog. If you have a blog, please provide a link to your initial blog post committing to the challenge. Participants without blogs can post reviews on general review sites such as LibraryThing, Goodreads or Shelfari. I will be creating a post in which all participants will be able to link their reviews so that everyone can follow everyone's progress and perhaps get a few good mystery recommendations.
Sign ups are open ended and so you are welcome to sign up at any time throughout the year.
There will be a prize! The biggest reward will be completion of the challenge, of course, but isn't it more fun when, at the end of the day, there's a drawing for a prize? For all those who complete the challenge, your name will be entered into a drawing for an as-of-yet-unspecified prize.
If there is an interest (and volunteers), I would like to feature guest posts from authors and readers on the topic of crime fiction throughout the course of the challenge. It won't be every day. Maybe once or twice a month at most, depending on volunteer interest (so, if you are interested, please let me know! Shoot me an e-mail).
I hope you will join me for the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge!
For more information and to sign-up, please see this post.