Some people aren’t sold on the idea of Christian mysteries having a place in the world. First, I’ll explore my general expectations of “Christian” books. Next, I’ll explain the difference between clean mystery and Christian mystery. Then, I will dive deeper into what I think makes a mystery book “Christian.” Finally, I’ll touch on some of the themes that pop up in the Christian Mystery genre.
What do you think of when you think “Christian Fiction”?
To me, it brings to mind historical fiction like Gilbert Morris’s really long, mostly awesome House of Winslow series, which follows one family’s journey to America and beyond until about the 1950’s. The other half I think of is Dee Henderson’s modern Christian romances, which have a fair amount of suspense in them.
Clean vs. Christian:
I’ve written both. Scratched Off is what I’d consider clean mystery. The Heartfelt Cases series would be considered Christian mystery. Absence of “adult” scenes and strong language place both in the clean category. Scratched Off probably has more “disturbing” content, as it centers on a serial killer’s quest to find himself, but there are few gory details. The details that are included are somewhat sanitized by the way they’re described.
So, what makes Heartfelt Cases Christian and Scratched Off not?
What makes a mystery book “Christian”?
Christians. Before you get annoyed by that answer, let me explain. The characters in Heartfelt Cases are Christians. The way they approach their lives inherently includes God and prayer. Their faith defines them. Ann and Patrick don’t cease to be FBI agents just because they’re Christian. It’s just a part of them.
Could you have a Christian mystery without any main characters being Christian? Maybe. At least one character would have to be, but they don’t necessarily have to be the main character.
Genres only exist to help us categorize books. Mystery itself is a broad, overarching genre and Christian mystery is a subgenre.
Themes in Christian Mystery:
In no particular order, these are some of the themes you might encounter in a Christian mystery:
- Justice vs mercy – If you’re reading a mystery, something’s gone wrong for some character. They’ve been robbed, murdered, assaulted, or something. Likely, that person is related to or a good friend of the main character. Then, the rest of the book follows the MC’s quest to get justice, while battling the idea of mercy rather fiercely.
- Finding peace (terrorism, murder, other mayhem) – Anybody who’s been hurt significantly would struggle with finding peace. Some Christian mystery books may center on the main character’s need to overcome a tragedy.
- Finding true love – Love is the cornerstone emotion. Misunderstood love has led to a lot of tragedy. A strong subtheme in Christian mysteries might be the journey to finding true love.
- Forgiveness – This is a tough one in life and in fiction. With the hardships that the characters in mysteries face, often there is a need to learn
- Redemption – I suppose there are varying levels of redemption, but the type most common in a mystery would involve a scenario where the main character ends up committing some wrong and needing to do something to fix the problem.
Does there always have to be a conversion to make a book Christian?
No. That might be part of the story if it’s mainly about harrowing events drawing somebody to Christ, but characters in stories, like people in life, will be at all different stages of their spiritual life. Some may be well-grounded, while others are just starting out. The other characters should be able to see the difference in Christian characters, but just like life, that doesn’t mean they’re going to immediately become Christians themselves.
Thanks for reading. If you’ve never tried a Christian mystery book, give it a go. You can start out with The Collins Case for free if you like. Let me know what you think.
About the Author:
Julie C. Gilbert teaches high school chemistry and writes in many genres, including nonfiction, fantasy, young adult science fiction, mystery/thriller, and Christian mystery. She collects Legos and Star Wars stuff.
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