Why does Omniscient POV work sometimes?

Last week I wrote a post on how you really should not write in omniscient POV. I was reading a Regency-set fantasy romance and the omniscient POV kept me at arm’s length from the characters, so I really couldn’t fall in love with either the hero or the heroine.

Well, like every good author, I read outside of the genre I write, so I am now just finishing a mystery which—surprise!—is written in the omniscient POV. Not only do we see scenes from all of the main character’s POVs (there are four), but from minor characters as well—even from the point of view of a dog as he’s eagerly awaiting his master’s return from catching the murderer!

I hate to tell you this, but aside from the dog’s POV, it worked. Why? Why did this book work with its omniscient POV and the other didn’t?

Because it was a mystery. I was not reading a romance where I wanted to have all the good “feels” while the two protagonists fell in love. I was reading for the fun of solving a mystery (or watching while other people did so) and because the four main characters are highly entertaining, each with their own very distinctive voices and fun character quirks.

So, while I still hold to what I said in my previous post—you should not use omniscient POV if you want your reader to feel close to your protagonists. However, if you are writing another genre—mystery, scifi, horror, whatever, and don’t want your readers to identify with your main character, then go ahead. If you can pull it off, it seems to be something that is becoming extremely popular.