Detective Novels: Mysteries, Thrills, and Reviews
Hello you wonderful people! I have been really into the detective genre lately and thought I might make a post about it. If you stick around, I have prepared an article for you over the history of the genre, some book suggestions/reviews, how to write the genre, and a short story following said genre.
The History of the Detective Genre
Practically everyone knows of the great Sherlock Holmes and his partner John Watson. But how much do people actually know about Sherlock Holmes and the genre of writing he resides in? The short story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allen Poe is widely considered to be the first in the detective genre because of its centering around, you know, a detective. A great, short podcast that is more detailed in this matter is Who Wrote the First Detective Novel.
From then on, well known novels such as “The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins and “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came out, furthering the popularity of the genre. Speaking of the popularity of the genre, in today’s time, it seems as though it has died out sadly. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of mystery novels out there written by today’s authors that are good. However, the detective sub genre has seemingly tanked since the olden times. Because of that, I thought it would be nice to give the genre more love and some suggestions on good detective books. Now, let’s get to the suggestion segment!
Mysteries of Grand Inspectors
First on the list would have to be The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. The book takes place around the 1920’s in England, consisting of beautifully structured sentences. All the facts of the crime are laid out before the reader, making what seems to be a transparent case with so many intriguing twists and turns. I absolutely loved reading this novel but one thing to note about it is that the narrative is almost like an account of the case rather than your usual creative type story. That personally made no difference to me due to that it made it easier to make out what was fact and what was random bursts from the narrative. Overall, a tremendous read.
Second is A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This book follows the adventures of ever so popular John Watson and Sherlock Holmes. However, before reading, be aware of the fact that the book is rather old and takes place in Victorian era England, meaning the text can be hard to understand sometimes. It has complex sentences with many uncommon words so much so that you might want to keep a dictionary handy, just in case. In my opinion, I thought it was totally worth the read. The characters are strong, the plot was good, yet the story telling bit was slightly odd. Part two, you are thrown in a completely different narrative that is confusing but trust me, it all makes sense in the end. Or probably way before then if you pay attention unlike me. Despite this, I fell in love with the characters and wanted to read more and more until I got to the bottom of the mystery! So, definitely worth reading.
The third and last detective novel I would suggest is the one that started it all: The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe. This short story is more suitable to older audiences. I started on this short story more as a way to better understand the first works of the detective genre, but have yet to finish it. I am halfway through it and would like to report that the characters are wonderfully quirky, the crime is riveting, and the plot is intriguing. However, just like in A Study in Scarlet, the book uses aged English. And one of the biggest warnings I can give you is that the crime is described explicitly. It is gruesome. If that is not something you want to be reading then please, do not read this book. As many people know, Edgar Allan Poe was a very dark man. But, if you can stomach the gore, then go on. Again, do not read this book if you are sensitive to blood and gore. So far, still a good read.
Writing the Genre: Detective Style
Now while I’m not a professional, I can tell you that with this genre, you will need two main things: A detective character and a captivating mystery/crime. Like I said, I am not a professional, so here are some professionals who do know what they are doing!
Did you read it? No? Okay, well, I’ll give you a small rundown of what it says. Give the character an interesting motive, learn about detective work, don’t make it too easy for readers to solve the mystery, make sure there’s payoff, and experiment and innovate! That is nearly word for word (if not exactly) the headings in the blog linked. Like I said, it goes into more detail there.
Although, if you are like minded of me, then an example might help tremendously. Here is a short story with a detective and the makings of an investigation. Kind of like a story hook, if you will.
“Good evening Detective Ryder, we have an urgent case. The victim is a 26 year old female named Elain Northbridge,” Lane started as soon as I got out of my car. I fought back a smile as I pulled my gloves on. The wind whipped around while sirens wailed. The usual, lazy winter nights I’d grown so accustomed to was forgotten. Can’t be good if they’ve called me out here so soon and if Lane’s this frantic already.
“What else?” I asked as we made our way to the house. I scanned the entire yard and house, taking in everything I possibly could.
“Her neighbors heard a scream from her house and when we got here, we found her with no obvious wounds, scratches, or marks.”
“So what makes this a homicide? Was there any foam on her mouth, signs of poisoning?”
“No,” Lane said. I stopped in my tracks. The killer must have left a note, a sign of their presence, or something. They wouldn’t have called me all this way for nothing.
“Then why am I here?” I asked, eyes boring into Lane. He broke eye contact, finding the ground oddly interesting. He scratched the back of his head with his clipboard.
“Nope, don’t tell me,” I interrupted him. “There was something medically wrong with the victim, something that required her to have medicine to keep her alive. The killer took that away from her, left something behind to show it, and ran. Perhaps diabetes? Or, more likely, they poisoned medicine the victim took regularly. That would make far more sense. Or am I completely wrong and the victim inhaled a poison of sorts?”
Lane stared at me, at the house with the victim, at his clipboard, then back again. He let out a deep sigh. “The victim was had medicine they took regularly.” I clapped my hands before my eyes narrowed back towards the house.
“So what’s the problem?” There was bound to be far more to this than I had thought up yet. Did the killer leave something…
“All her medications are gone.” Lane stated.
“Let me finish,” He cut in, obviously frustrated. “All the bottles remained and they all had one or two pills left in them. We found them in a line by the victim.” I stayed silent for a moment.
“Binary code?” I said, tapping my chin. “Is there anything else I need to know?” Lane nodded, then shuttered.
“Only one of her bottles wasn’t in the line. It was a prescription for Olanzapine, an antipsychotic-”
“I know what it is, now tell me what’s wrong with the bottle so I can get on with the investigation! You’ve held me up long enough.” I snapped. Lane’s puffy cheeks burned bright cherry red.
“The bottle was labeled ‘happy pills’ on the cap and a creepy smiley face painted on it in blood across the label,” he huffed.
“How many pills were in the bottle and whose blood?”
“The seal on the bottle was opened but all the pills were still inside it. As for the blood, we have no idea whose it is. We have no matches to it yet,” Lane answered.
I took in all the information, digesting each and every last morsel. Taking in a deep breath, slowly releasing it. I fixed my eyes on the house ahead of us. Determined, I took even strides towards it. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face this time. Oh what an interesting case lay ahead.
So all in all, there is a bit of a history lesson, book review, and a writing lesson plus a short story! Now you hopefully know more about the genre and are interested in reading/finding out more about it. In the comments, let me know what your favorite detective book is! Anyways, I hope you all have a great, blessed day. See you next post!
Excellent blog post! I absolutely love this genre! I think my favorite detective novel is Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers. I also loved her novels Strong Poison, and Gaudy Night. Bleak House by Charles Dickens was really good, but there are a ton of characters and the story is somewhat drawn out (it takes almost 24 hours of reading time), but it is so worth it. I look forward to reading the rest of your short story.