detective Story

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Form of fiction whose main structural characteristic is a reversal of the sequence of events: the catastrophe, generally a murder, is typically presented first, followed by the introduction of suspected criminals and of a series of clues whose significance the reader is not supposed to grasp until the story is ended by a climax of explanation, in which the detective hero shows how the crime was committed, the motives for it, and finally the identity of the criminal. Poe's “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Purloined Letter,” and “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” are considered the first modern detective stories. In them there appears the prototype of fictional detectives, C. Auguste Dupin, an intellectual amateur who demonstrates an astounding ability to solve crimes by analyzing clues unobserved or misinterpreted by the police and his simple friend, the narrator of the tales. Some dime novels featured detectives like Nick Carter, but the detective novel did not become widely popular until the work of such foreign authors as Gaboriau, Wilkie Collins, and Conan Doyle was published in the U.S. The first full-length detective novels of the U.S. of importance were those of Anna Katharine Green, the most popular being The Leavenworth Case (1878). The vogue of detective fiction has become tremendous in the 20th century and American authors include Earl Derr Biggers, Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner, Dashiell Hammett, Frances Noyes Hart, John D. MacDonald, Ross Macdonald, J. P. Marquand, Elliott Paul, Ellery Queen, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Mickey Spillane, Rex Stout, and S. S. Van Dine. Detective plays of the American theater include Gillette's Sherlock Holmes, Elmer Rice's On Trial, and Mary Roberts Rinehart's The Bat.

Subjects: Literature.

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