Trends in Mystery

How does one identify current and forthcoming trends? First and foremost, as a selector, I am constantly reviewing and monitoring new titles. I can often spot some emerging trends simply by looking for patterns in the books I see. For a deeper dive, my "go to" sources include writers, publishers, booksellers, book reviewers, and librarians. I targeted some of those folks in researching this topic.

One obvious trend — evident almost everywhere I look — is diversity, which is influencing Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, and Romance fiction, in both YA and Adult. There is more diversity in both book characters and authors. More awards are being won by non-white, LGBTQA+, and women authors. The publishing industry is recognizing the need for greater diversity, and significant inroads are being made. As a broader, more diverse, range of characters, cultures, and relationships are presented in literature, people of all ages are more likely to recognize some aspects of themselves in the books they read.

So what else is trending?

Domestic psychological thrillers, particularly ones with “girl” in the title, are still somewhat popular, although several people I spoke to expressed relief that interest in them seems to be waning. Gone Girl was published in 2014, so perhaps this trend has run its course.

Lou Berney, author of November Road, this fall’s most talked-about title at Bouchercon (and likely top blockbuster), plans to write a psychological thriller next. November Road is an example of the trend towards strong women characters, and of alternative takes and storylines from historical events. This one starts with the assassination of President Kennedy.

An apparent trend in so-called "cozy mysteries" is to place more emphasis on character than crafts.

Other trends in the mystery genre include canine-oriented plots/characters and characters who are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars—including more women veterans. Titles featuring real historical figures are also popular.

In the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, there seems to be an uptick in overtly political titles and considerable cross-over between YA and Adult titles. Superheroes continue to be extremely popular, and dystopian novels are still trending. Diversity seems to be a big trend in these genres as well, particularly with strong women, people of color, and LGBQTA+ main characters. Mackenzi Lee’s YA series titles A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy are some examples.

“Women of accomplishment” has become another popular theme, beginning with titles such as Hidden Figures. Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky tell an alternative history of space from the 1950s and 1960s. They act as prequels to her short fiction, The Lady Astronaut of Mars, which won the 2014 Hugo Award for Novelette. Humorous Science Fiction and Fantasy titles are also popular, such as Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles series. Outside of libraries and bookstores, we also see quite a few fan-fiction and podcast publications in these areas, which is a testament to their popularity.

Check out these Bibz lists for some trending titles to add to your shelves.

Further reading:
Trends in the Science Fiction Genre (Writers Digest, July, 2018)
Fiction Trends in the U.K. (The Oxford Editors, summer 2018).

Kirkus has a wonderful Q&A called Word on the Street, published every few weeks, in which editors, other publishing professionals, writers, librarians, and booksellers are interviewed. The same question is posed to almost every interviewee: “What are some trends for the coming year?”

Lesa Holstine is the Collections & Technical Services Manager at Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library in Evansville, Indiana. She is also an avid mystery reader, reviewer for Library Journal, and a blogger. At the recent Anthony Awards ceremony, Lesa received the David Thompson Memorial Award. This award is bestowed by the Board of Directors of Boucheron for “extraordinary efforts to develop and promote the crime fiction field.”