Mystery fiction or detective fiction, is a story in which a detective, either professional or amateur, solves a crime . In American language is usually called whodonit.
In England, the early archetype of the whodunit is f in the vast novel Bleak House (1853) by Charles Dickens. Tulkinghorn, a manipulative lawyer, is killed in his office late one night, and Inspector Bucket of the Metropolitan force crime investigates. Numerous characters are involved on the crime scene and for Inspector Bucket it is a hard task to penetrate these mysteries and identify the murderer.
However surely Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took inspiration from Poe while writing the various adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the unmarried, quite eccentric amateur detective. These strange, solitary profilers frequently have a less intelligent assistants, who make apparently irrelevant inquiries and explain the solution of the mystery at the end of the story, they work as the detectives’ alter ego. In the case of Sherlock Holmes this figure is Doctor Watson.
At the beginning of the 1900 some magazine became specialised in crime stories. They were th Dime Mystery, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Mystery.
The Whodunit became the most widespread subgenre of the detective novel: a crime, usually a homicide, is investigated, the method and the identity and of the criminal are revealed only at the end of the book
Now the style of the analysis shows also a great attention to forensic detail (CSI).
An important contribution to mystery fiction in the 1920s was the development of the juvenile mystery by Edward Stratemeyer. Stratemeyer originally developed and wrote the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries written under the Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene pseudonyms.
But just in the 1920s wrote the most popular mystery author of all time, Agatha Christie, who produced a long series of books featuring her detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. These works usually included a complex puzzle that the reader try to un -knot.
In the 1950s, with the rise of television, the interest in the genre increased so much that the numerous titles available then are reduced to two today, Alfred Hitchcock‘s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen‘s Mystery Magazine. The Detective fiction author Ellery Queen (pseudonym of authors Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee) is also credited with the continued interest in mystery fiction thanks to the namesake magazine which began in 1941.
The private eye novel
Private eye Martin Hewitt, created by British author Arthur Morrison, is perhaps the first example of the modern style of fictional private detective. In the 1930s, the private eye genre was adopted by American writers like Dashiell Hammett. Their style of crime fiction came to known as “hardboiled,” which are stories focussed on gangsters, crooks, and other committers or victims of crimes.
In the late 1930s, Raymond Chandler updated the form with his private detective Philip Marlowe, who brought a more intimate voice to the detective than Hammett’s distant, third-person viewpoint. His d narrations evoked the dark alleys of American cities, rich women and powerful men about whom he wrote. James Hadley Chase wrote a few novels with private eyes as the main hero, including Blonde’s Requiem (1945), Lay Her Among the Lilies (1950), and Figure It Out for Yourself (1950). Heroes of these novels are typical private eyes which are very similar to Philip Marlowe.
Ross Macdonald, pseudonym of Kenneth Millar, created the detective Lew Archer. Macdonald used psychology and his sryle is rich in imagery. Like other ‘hardboiled’ writers, Macdonald aimed to give an impression of realism in his work through violence, sex and confrontation.
Michael Collins, pseudonym of Dennis Lynds, is generally considered the author who led the form into the Modern Age. His PI, Dan Fortune took a sociological bent,: he explored the meaning of his characters’ places in society and the impact society had on people.
The ‘puzzle’ approach begun with Agatha Christie was carried even further into quite impossible plots by John Dickson Carr, or Carter Dickson, the master of the “locked room mystery” and Cecil Street, or John Rhode, whose detective Dr. Priestley is specialised in elaborate technical devices. In the US the ‘cozy’or puzzle style was adopted and extended by Rex Stout, creator of the lazy, solitary, mysantropic Nero Wolf
With the advent of cinema and television these stories increased and developed. Just Think about Alfred Hitchcock who shot muvies like Rebecca and The Birds taken from the homonimous stories by Dafne Du Maurier.
TV heroine Jessica Fletcher is confronted with bodies wherever she goes,and science now gives a great contribution in the series like CSI or NCIS or BONES