What’s the Difference between Mystery and Thriller?

If you are reading a novel, it is important to know your genre. But before you start calling your novel a mystery or a thriller with suspense elements, you must know what separates these two genres.

A mystery, by definition, is something that defies our common understanding of the world. In mysteries, there are mysteries – things you do not know until the end.

In a thriller, for example, you may know who the killer is from the very first page of the book, but you’re captivated by the chase — and the action must be punctuated at key moments. In a mystery, however, you may not know who the murderer is until the very end.

Mystery Novels

In mystery novels, a crime is committed—almost always murder—and the plot revolves around figuring out who did it and why, as well as obtaining some form of justice.

The best mystery stories frequently explore man’s unique capacity for deception—especially self-deception—and show humble respect for human understanding’s limits. This is generally considered the most cerebral and least violent of suspense genres.

Following are the basic plot elements of mystery:

  • The hidden killer
  • The baffling crime
  • The singularly motivated investigator
  • The cover-up (often more important than the crime itself, as it’s the cover-up that conceals the killer)
  • Suspect identification and elimination (with the creation of false suspects frequently being part of the killer’s plan)
  • Evaluation of clues (sifting the true from the untrue)
  • Identification and apprehension of the killer

Thriller Novels

While mystery stories are the most cerebral of the suspense genres, thrillers are usually the most emotional, focusing on the hero’s doubt, fear, and dread as he faces “terrible trouble,” as Dean Koontz puts it.

This subgenre is a mix of mystery and horror. Thriller, however, shares a literary lineage with myth and epic – terror, monsters, and danger prevails. Thematically, thrillers focus on the unsafe world we live in, the inherent threat of the unknown, and the vulnerability of the average person.

The plot of thriller novels often proceeds along these lines:

  • A heinous crime is about to be committed or has already been committed, with the threat of an even more heinous crime lurking around the corner.
  • The perpetrator is identified, but his guilt is unknown—or the hero refuses to accept the truth of his guilt. This uncertainty heightens the tension.
  • As the hero attempts to prove the perpetrator’s guilt and/or prevent the next atrocity, he is constantly attacked. It’s worth noting how this differs from the mystery genre, where the villain usually remains hidden. That villain can be anyone – a terrorist, a diabolical genius, or an ordinary person with an oversized grudge and a unique capacity for damage.


After a thorough read of this blog, you will completely understand the difference between mystery and thriller novels. Meanwhile, why don’t you check out some of the killer books by Brian T. Seifrit, a fourteen-time published author? “Absolute Anger”, “Return to Red Rock”, “Bloodlines”, “Escape”, “Red Rock Canyon” and “The Coalition of Purgatory” are some of his books that every thriller and mystery lover should read.

What Is the Difference between a Thriller and a Psychological Thriller?

Let’s find out the difference between a thriller and a psychological thriller.

Thrillers are books that begin to excite readers early in the plot and continue to do so until the climax. They keep readers confused with plot twists or red herrings, and keep them engaged with cliffhangers at the end of chapters. The goal is to keep the reader enthralled, rendering the book unputdownable.

Due to this addictive quality, thrillers are often bestsellers. Thrillers are frequently based on a crime, although this is not a prerequisite. A psychological thriller, on the other hand, is one of the 4 popular thriller subgenres. As the name implies, a psychological thriller is about the complicated emotional state of one or more characters, usually the narrator or antagonist.

The narrator is paranoid or psychotic at times, and at other times, the narrator is the book’s criminal, giving readers insight into a criminal’s disturbed mind. Sometimes psychological thrillers center around the hunt for a criminal who has a psychological problem and needs to be apprehended by understanding how his mind functions.

Elements of a Thriller Novel

Tension and suspense are hallmarks of the thriller genre in general. As the story progresses, this tension will keep readers on the edge of their seats. A thriller novel focuses on suspense, dread, and the fear of a potential crime rather than one that has already occurred. Most thrillers start with a crime and then ask the protagonists to work backwards to find out who did it.

In a thriller, the bad guy is always introduced early on, and the protagonists must work together to prevent them from committing evil acts. Examples of high-stakes thriller novels include Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series and R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series for young adults.

Elements of a Psychological Thriller Novel

Unreliable narrators are common in psychological thriller novel, and the ‘thrill’ comes from the fear or paranoia the narrator instils in the reader. The books also offer insights into minds that work differently from the readers’ – the reason why they are often fascinating, difficult to foresee, or morbidly interesting to readers.

In a psychological thriller novel, madness and fear are used to generate terror. Robert Bloch’s Psycho, made popular by Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation, is a tale of mental illness rather than monsters, though it does include several graphic scenes.

In a psychological thriller, characters rarely rely on their physical strength to overcome their enemies, but rather on their mental resources. Often the enemies are not external (other circumstances or characters) but internal (insanity, phobias, feelings, urges, and fears).

Even when the enemies are other characters, the conflicts are typically resolved by mind games, deceit, and manipulation, or even long-term efforts to destroy each other’s mental equilibrium, rather than the normal violent action seen in classic thrillers.


Whether it’s a thriller or a psychological thriller, suspense and tension take the central stage. A thorough read of this blog should be enough to help you differentiate between a typical thriller and a psychological thriller book.

Meanwhile, why don’t you check out some of the popular books by Brian T. Seifrit, a fourteen-time published author, that will take you into a world of suspense, confusion, and the depths of the human mind?

Ten Best Psychological Thriller Books of All Time

When it comes to shopping for bestselling suspense novels, we often think of legends like Agatha Christie and Stephen Kings. However, they’re not the only ones capable of taking the art of weaving thriller-themed fiction to the next level.

Any discussion on the ten best psychological thriller books of all time is incomplete without mentioning the works of Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and several others.

In this blog, we’ll provide you with a broad overview of the ten best psychological thriller books of all time.

Ten Best Psychological Thriller Books of All Time

There’s seldom a thing that can keep you more captivated than psychological thrillers. Here’s a curated list of the best psychological thriller books of all time in alphabetical order.

1. A Bloodstained Hammer, Brian T. Seifrit

The fiction is based on the infamous Townsend killings that took place in British Columbia in the late 1950s. Noted Canadian author Brian T. Seifrit has narrated the emotions of the killer and his victims in A Bloodstained Hammer in the most prolific manner.

2. Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty

Set in the coastal Monterey town, it’s an intriguing thriller about 5 housewives discovering the undertones of domestic abuse running in their Instagram-perfect lives. Considering Moriarty’s natural expertise for compelling prose and believable character sketching, it’s a must-read for all suspense-loving bibliophiles. You should seriously consider including Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty in the list of best psychological thriller books of all time.

3. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn is synonymous with suspense novels that proudly boast of twisting, intensely dark narratives pivoted on seemingly cruel, complex female characters. Gone Girl is an engrossing story about the courtship of Amy and Nick, their failing marriage, and the former’s eventual disappearance.

4. The Couple Next Door, Shari Lapena

Anne and Marco Conti decide attending a dinner party as a babysitter comes to their rescue just before the social gathering is scheduled to begin. In spite of checking on their baby every thirty minutes, when the new parents returned home, the babysitter is gone. However, people start to suspect the couple as they’re both found to be guarding a chest of secrets.

5. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins occupied the New York Times list of bestsellers for consecutive thirteen weeks. The story is narrated from a first-person perspective and centered on three women. The gradual uncoiling of shocking incidents along with intense suspense build-up makes it to the list of best psychological thriller books of all time.

6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist teams up with a hacker named Lisbeth Slander for investigating a 40-year-old mystery. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson revolves around the strange disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a wealthy Swedish teenager.

7. The Shining, Stephen King

Jack Torrance is your next-door individual who becomes the caretaker of a pompous but unsettling Overlook Hotel. Things get increasingly terrorizing and morbid once the resting place comes to life and transforms into a hellish nightmare. The Shining by Stephen King certainly deserves to be on the list of best psychological thriller books of all time.

8. The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith is the undisputed master of how to craft macabre settings in psychological thrillers. The Talented Mr. Ripley is the first of a five-part novel series where she creates a character that’s both unnervingly empathetic and without a conscience. Admittedly, not just this volume but the entire series is worth including in the list of best psychological thriller books of all time.

9. The Widow, Fiona Barton

Crumbling marriages tend to be an ideal element in psychological thrillers and The Widow by Fiona Barton is no exception. It’s a fascinating story about the secrets of a woman named Jean and the lies she’s made herself believe.

10. Those Bones Are Not My Child, Toni Cade Bambara

This spine-chilling suspense thriller is based on the infamous Atlanta child murders that shook the entire USA in the late 1970s to the early ’80s. Published posthumously, Those Bones Are Not My Child is a gory tale of a terror-stricken mother and her teenage son who went missing one day.

So, this was a brief introduction to the best psychological thriller books of all time. If you believe that we’ve missed something, let us know by commenting below.

Guide to Psychological Thrillers and the Best Psychological Thriller Books of All-Time

The psychological thrillers is a subcategory of the thriller genre. Despite this, it does have quite a few defining attributes that make it different from other genres of this niche. This includes supernatural thrillers, medical thrillers, and spy thrillers. When discussing the best psychological thriller books of all-time, note that the terms psychological suspense and psychological thrillers are used pretty much interchangeably, because they both do an excellent job of narrating the mental states of the fictional characters.

The key difference between these two is that the former kind usually involves a horrific crime, such as a murder, along with the consequences that come after the gruesome incident. Nevertheless, as they both are nearly identical, we’ll settle for the terminology of psychological thriller in today’s discussion.

Psychological Thrillers Rely on Action, Drama, and Mystery

Not only the best psychological thriller books of all-time, but all kinds of psychological thriller stories typically highlight the delusional or unstable emotional and mental state of the characters, emphasizing the very unfathomable, unimaginable, and inexplicable human mind itself. The plot often unfolds from the perspective of those fictional characters that are psychologically stressed, gradually divulging the disoriented nature of their mental perceptions, and a waning sense of reality, or a feeling of losing control over things at times.

The best psychological thriller books of all-time often rely on elements of action, drama, and mystery. The characters may exhibit some psychological aberrance, such as anxiety, agoraphobia, paranoia, or multiple personality disorder. These stories centre on the emotional states of all the fictional actors, talking about their thoughts and perceptions, as well as potential distortions, delusions, and their incapability to comprehend reality as it truly is.

Psychological Thrillers Tinker With the Reader’s Mind

Psychological thriller novels tend to be particularly suspense-centric as they exploit uncertainty over characters’ integrity, motive, and how they witness their surroundings. The best psychological thriller books of all-time just don’t play with the fictional actors’ mental state, but also tinker with your (reader’s) mind at the same time.

Most common plot devices often involve storyline twists, unreliable narrators, first-person narrative, as well as citing references to the thought process (could be delusional sometimes) of the character through showcasing one’s stream of consciousness. The characters are often found engaged in a raging war with none other than their minds, trying hard to figure out what’s real and what’s not.

Psychological thriller stories have remained in circulation for an impressively long period. The first psychological thriller fiction happened to be short stories and novels written by Edgar Allan Poe in the early nineteenth century. Daphne du Maurier also published her epic novel Rebecca in 1938. Today, with the enviable popularity of contemporary psychological thrillers, such as The Girl on the Train, and Gone Girl, it’s only evident that if you’ve not yet read the best psychological thriller books of all-time, you’re surely missing something!

A few of the best psychological thriller books of all-time by Brian T. Seifrit are Bloodlines, Absolute Anger, and A Blood-Stained Hammer. You can learn more of his writings and also order them online from the Amazon author page.


Difference Between Thriller and Suspense

When you’re looking for a book to buy and read in your leisure time, in an old-fashioned manner or perhaps in your Kindle, do genre labels influence your selections? Have you ever wondered what is it truly that makes the best action-thriller books (or just any thriller novel for that matter) differ from the highest-selling suspense novels?? This blog aims to discuss the key differences between thriller (in general and not limited to any subgenres in particular like a psychological thriller or action-thriller) and suspense.

Difference Between Thriller and Suspense

Thriller: A gripping, fast-paced plot whose center storyline is integral not only to the best action-thriller books but also equally applicable for any good thriller novel. It generally involves a protagonist who can be found confronting various dangerous situations from the very beginning.

Suspense: On the contrary, suspense stories tend to expose readers to varied emotions of anticipation, uncertainty, and anxiety in a gradual manner.

  1. Plot

The focal idea of a novel can be regarded as its prime driving force. The plot of fiction isn’t about how complex the storyline is but rather pertains to the conflict itself and the way it unfolds.

  • Thriller

Action-oriented storylines are increasingly usual in thriller literature per se, and the readers are subjected to that edge-of-your-chair treatment more often than not.

  • Suspense

Being preoccupied with tension build-up and all the anxiety involved, suspense fiction can afford to play out a rather mundane series of external events as they explore the internal conflicts and rely on dramatic tension.

  1. Dramatic Tension

This is where the respective core characteristics of these two genres become most profound. Dramatic tension reveals the fictional character that is aware of the conflict, along with how it’s going to surface in the plot.

  • Thriller

The protagonist figures in the best psychological thriller books of all time often know their predicament and are relentlessly engaged in battling the conflict throughout the story. In essence, both the readers and the central characters of thrillers are aware of the dramatic tension.

  • Suspense

The gripping tension in suspense-themed books is usually produced by a literary device called dramatic irony, where the readers know something that the characters are not being aware of.

  1. Pacing

Pacing can be compared to an imaginary slider, and stories can be classified as fast-paced, medium-paced, or slow-paced.

  • Thriller

Admittedly, a thriller is fast-paced and revolves around what occurs once the danger element is introduced or conflict situation is established.

  • Suspense

Suspense novels are characterized by their distinctly slow pace, with the gradual build-up of dramatic tension and eventually converging to the grand climax.

The Best Action-Thriller Books by Brian T. Seifrit

Voracity, Escape, Red Rock Canyon, and the Return to Red Rock Canyon are some of the best action-thriller books from Brian T. Seifrit. Visit the Amazon author microsite now to explore his complete work of fiction and order one or more of his bestsellers today!

Why We Always Fall for Best Psychological Thriller Books of All Time?

The best psychological thriller books of all time and crime fiction intrigues readers across all age groups. Owing to their massive popularity, they’ve become the world’s leading choice for books and movies. Often, the bestsellers list has the highest percentage of thrillers. It’s evident that for some of the readers, nothing can beat the excitement of reading psychological thrillers.

Have you ever thought what accounts for this obsession with thrillers? Why do readers across age groups have this unsatiated thirst to be acquainted with psychological thrillers?

Well, it’s the sheer desire to discover the undiscovered. People admit to being fans of the crime genre. The obsession with the genre scares them and helps them interact with their greatest fear.

Psychiatrists opine that far for from being criminally inclined, those who love reading about crime are people with a high empathetic factor. They further state that humans have always had a morbid fascination for and curiosity about violence and calamity.

Here are three reasons why the best psychological thriller books of all time are loved by readers across age groups

1. Keeps us Hooked

Psychological thrillers are puzzling. Right from the beginning, they instill a sense of curiosity in our minds and keeps us guessing till the end. The books create shadowy places of ambiguous morality and make us feel like everything is happening in the real world.

2. Builds a Real World around Us

Often, the best murder mystery books are set in a familiar ambience, making it difficult for us to distinguish between the real and reel. Unlike traditional thrillers, psychological thrillers mostly deal with our relationships, sex lives, and children. This makes us think that the danger is not only close but inside our homes, where we’re supposed to be the safest. Psychological thrillers are narrated in the first person or third person, giving us access to the protagonist’s thoughts and fear.

3. Instigates Our Greatest Fears

The best psychological thriller books of all time allow us to explore our nightmares without putting ourselves in any actual danger, while also giving us a chance to explore our darkest fears and desires. The questions these books ask are deeply unsettling and stay with us long after we finish reading the novel.

Psychological Thriller Books by Brian Would Make You Explore Your Greatest Fears

Brian T. Seifrit is a fourteen-time published author of some of the best psychological thrillers. Having started his career as a writer for a community newspaper in Fruitvale BC, he evolved to be one of the best-selling authors of thriller and mystery books. Some of his best works are –

1. A Bloodstained Hammer :-

The story is a fictionalized description of the Townsend murders that took place in 1959 in a small town in British Columbia. The author has tried to describe the thoughts and feelings of the murder and his victims. Buy Now!

A Bloodstained Hammer

2. Bloodlines:-

The story is about an ancient blood-thirsty curse that’s lying dormant, but looking for victims. The story keeps us guessing the aftermath of the curse. Buy Now!


Eager to know more about his published works or buy them online? Visit his Amazon page today! You’d love it, if you are deeply in love with psychological thrillers!