Come into the parlour and let me reveal what my little grey cells have been assembling for you on the subject of Detective Fiction.
The book idea I have brewing in my mind for the writing is a murder mystery, Agatha Christie style – less gruesome stabbing and more puzzle-solving. A classic, detective story in fact.
So, today I have decided to write a bit about Detective Fiction and how it came into being.
Detective Fiction can be roughly summed up as the following: a subgenre of mystery fiction in which there is a character who investigates a crime (usually a murder). Pretty broad eh!
I love a good detective novel and I’m particularly fond of Agatha Christie (now you know why I’m tempted by writing a detective book!) – in fact my brother in law recently gave me the most enormous collection of her books. They’re currently sitting in a bag in the living room because I’ve run out of bookshelf space! But that’s the bookish dream isn’t it?!
Anyway, back onto detectives… I’ll start you off with some background context to help you understand how detective fiction came into being.
During the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution, London grew rapidly and it became clear that a better system needed to be put in place to deal with increasing crime rates. Therefore, in 1829 the Metropolitan Police Service was established to help bring law and order to the city. Prior to this law enforcement was a source of public controversy and ridicule because of its lack of organisation and inefficiency. With the establishment of the police force, we begin to see the figure of the official police detective emerge in fiction. In fact, there is a move away from criminals being seen as the plucky heroes fighting against the system, to being the villains who are brought to justice by the police. All good stuff, eh?
So, with that piece of history in mind let’s look at two of the earliest authors to introduce us to Detective Fiction as we now know it.
Poe and Collins
Around 1841, Edgar Allan Poe published three stories all featuring a character called Detective Dupin, one of the very first literary detectives to appear. Furthermore, the first of these novels, The Murders in the Rue Morgue is credited with being the pioneer of the locked room subgenre of mysteries. It included a seemingly impossible crime and an ingenious solution.
These novels included some ideas which we still see in detective fiction today but it was Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone which really drew together many elements we now associate with classic detective fiction. Published in 1868, the story is set in an English country house, there is a celebrated investigator who must work with the bungling local police to solve that case, there are false suspects and red herrings, a reconstruction of the crime and a final twist at the end. Many argue that this was the true birth of detective fiction.
Right, I’d better get back to planning the murder! But on Friday, I’ll carry on where I left off today and have a look at the development of Detective Fiction – including the Golden Age of Agatha Christie. See you there 🙂
In the meantime, if you’d like to rip your way through a murder mystery but don’t know where to find the time. Worry not, I have the answer: