Elements of Excellent Mystery Thrillers

Mystery thrillers require certain elements to create a compelling and remarkable narrative. Whether it’s purely fiction or based on actual events, writing mystery novels can really be both challenging and rewarding if you do it right. It is not enough for authors of mystery thrillers to have a scary story or a devious enigmatic character. There are specific elements and a style of weaving these elements that make up a superb mystery thriller. Regardless if it’s a crime fiction, legal thriller, political suspense, psychological thriller, sci-fi thriller, or spy mystery, we think that these five elements will help create an efficient and remarkable work of literature.

The Hook

The hook is present in all great novels. It is the first sentence, the first line, or the opening paragraph. It comes in the form of a question, quote, statistic, or anecdote. It is the first attempt to convince the reader to read your story. Therefore, a remarkable mystery thriller needs a solid and convincing hook. The first few lines are crucial and should make them want to pursue the next paragraph, page, and chapter. Teasing about a further discovery, posing an interesting question, or featuring dramatic scenes are some of the familiar ways you can create a strong hook for your book.

The Red H

The Red H refers to red herring, a familiar element in mystery novels. According to Oxford Dictionaries online, “red herring” refers to “A clue or piece of information which is or is intended to be misleading or distracting:” The phrase comes from a practice of training dogs to hunt using the scent of dried herring, which turns red from being smoked. Red herrings should be visible throughout your narrative to keep the reader from guessing your novel’s next twist or surprise. It can be another character or explanation of a significant scene. They escalate tension and suspense and making your narrative more riveting and exciting.


Readers love suspense and mystery novels because part of them becomes one with the protagonists. There is an instinct for pursuing answers, discovering the truth, and unlocking mysteries. Remarkable mystery novels take readers to a whole new adventure of deduction, intuition, and suspense and that has always been the key in creating a narrative that is interesting from start to finish. In A Stranger in Town by Jo A. Totty, the author used the main characters Will Walker and the two investigating sheriffs to take readers into the journey of solving a series of mysterious murders. Through their POVs, readers become detectives and absorb the narrative well.

“Mystery writing involves solving a puzzle, but “high suspense” writing is a situation whereby the writer thrusts the hero/heroine into high drama” – Iris Johansen


In mystery thrillers, suspenseful dialogues are truly important. They move in ellipses and omissions. For example, having one character or more saying one thing but mean another. Creating suspenseful dialogues involves giving information opposite to what the reader already knows or assumes—withholding certain information or providing sporadic details of the narrative along the way, especially at the end part. Crafting enigmatic and pensive characters will also help you come up with really effective dialogues and lines. Making use of dialogue with strange turns, interruptions, dark tones, or other elements can also be effective because they give readers a feeling of unpredictability.


Dialogues are only effective if you employ descriptive language. Again, we take a page from Jo A. Totty’s writing style. She provides a vivid description of the setting of a quiet, small Southern town in her novels, which creates a mood perfect for mystery and suspense and provides tones and language that lets the readers absorb the fictional world she wants them to experience. The scenes and the characters’ actions are well-described and well-paced in her narratives, creating effective and compelling novels. A great structure can make or break a mystery thriller.

These are the essential elements that comprise a great mystery thriller. Of course, other elements such as engaging characters and an excellent climax are already given. Other elements that are sometimes overlooked by authors, in general, are the book’s length and the division of chapters. This has something to do with the pacing, which is also significant in maintaining readers’ attention to the narrative.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This