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Detective Fiction & Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

1341 words - 5 pages

According to the English crime writer P.D. James (1920-) “for a book to be described as detective fiction there must be a central mystery and one that by the end of the book is solved satisfactorily and logically, not by good luck or intuition, but by intelligent deduction from clues honestly if deceptively presented.” (James. 2009: 16). This is traditionally conducted via a detective; a figure deployed within the narrative structure ‘whose occupation is to investigate crimes’ (Oxford. 2006: 202). Therefore detective fiction represents an enigma, a puzzle to be solved through an intriguing series of events and clues presented by the writer to its audience; that are taken on a journey through a process of reasoning, elimination and conclusion to solve a mystery. The narrative formula allows the audience to engage on an exploration of self-discovery as “the mystery’s solution supplies a temporary sense of self through which the reader is offered an apparatus for negotiating the boundaries that define identity.” (McCracken. 1998: 50).
Detective fiction can be defined and situated into various different categories; “one is taxonomic…placing it in relation to other types of popular literature…Westerns, science fiction, spy tales and so on. John G. Cawelti’s (Adventure) has grouped these types into larger categories called ‘archetypes’ which are convenient for making an initial distinction between two major kinds of detective fiction, ‘Mystery’ and ‘Adventure.’ (Rzepka. 2005: 9). This raises the question of how detective fiction appeals to past and present audience’s and its position as part of a mass market publication in contemporary society. In order to answer this question it is important to briefly summarise the rise of detective fiction as a genre.
The rise of detective fiction as a genre is significantly vast and extensive in historical context; for example critics have indicated that the genre reaches as far back to Greek Mythology and the fable of Oedipus Rex “featuring…a detective and a criminal combined in one character, a device more common in detective fiction than one might expect.” (Rzepka. 2005: 16). However it was during the eighteenth century in Great Britain “came the beginnings of immense social and economic changes and the consequent movement of the population to the towns…conditions became intolerable and led to the formation of the "New Police"…in 1829 the first Metropolitan Police Act was passed.” (Mayor’s Office. 2012). Over a decade later the Detective Police Department was formed in London, England in (1842), enabling the rise, popularity and mass publication of detective fiction as a genre. (Priestman. 2003: xi).
However, arguably and ostensibly the roots and traditional form of detective fiction as recognised in contemporary society stem from the nineteenth century American author Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) and his work The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841). As argued by the twenty first century...

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