The following sample essay on Traditional murder mystery Detective stories are a type of mystery story that features a private detective or a police officer as the prime solver of a crime, usually a murder case. The detective questions the suspects, digs out clues, and tracks down the murderer. To make the case difficult for the detective and interesting to the reader, the author puts complications such as several suspects, additional murders, false clues that lead to wrong conclusions, and, often threats of violence, in the detective’s way.
The detective story, often called a whodunit, did not spring into being in this form. It developed early in the 20th century, from stories about detectives in which the reader was not a participant, but a witness, looking over the detective’s shoulder.
The originator of these stories was the American short-story writer Edgar Allan Poe, creator of the world’s first fictional detective, C. Auguste Dupin. Dupin’s methods of deduction and his bizarre personal habits provided the model that most detective storywriters have since followed.
Dupin first appeared in April 1841, when Graham’s Magazine published Poe’s classic horror story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” The detective later appeared in “The Mystery of Marie Rog” (1842-1843), “The Purloined Letter” (1845), and three other stories.
During this period the first real-life detective, Vidocq, was making history as chef de la (head of the Criminal Investigation Department) in Paris, and Poe’s hero, Dupin, was likely modeled on Vidocq. English novelist Charles Dickens ventured into the writing of detective fiction with The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), but he died before completing it, leaving the identity of the murderer unknown.
Another English novelist, Wilkie Collins, contributed The Moonstone (1868) and The Woman in White (1860) and created the detective character Sergeant Cuff.
Stories about detectives did not become truly popular, however, until Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887 published A Study in Scarlet, introducing to England and the world the most famous detective, real or fictional, of all time, Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the British writer who created Holmes, was influenced greatly by Poe. He gave Holmes the essence of Dupin’s mental traits and equally bizarre, although different habits. He narrated his detective’s exploits, like Poe, from the good view of a close companion, in this case the forever-naive character of Dr. Watson.
Despite his success with Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was more interested in writing “serious novels” as he had gotten tired of Holmes. As a result he tried to kill him off through a plot line. The impact of Sherlock Holmes popularized the detective story and brought it to its present form. Since the time of Conan Doyle, writers have wanted to develop detective heroes who repeat both Holmes’s unique character and his attitude. The English writer G. K. Chesterton, in the early years of the 20th century, developed the character of Father Brown, who was a priest detective. In 1920, with the beginning of what may be called the golden age of the detective story, the English writer Agatha Christie introduced her hero, Hercule Poirot, a stylish Belgian detective who actively employed the “little brain cells” in the solution of crimes.
In the United States, the Ellery Queen series was begun, and S. S. Van Dine (false name of Willard Huntington Wright) wrote about the amateur detective Philo Vance. Meanwhile, another American writer, Earl Derr Biggers, was creating his famed Chinese detective, Charlie Chan. Other authors who emerged in the 1930s include the American Rex Stout with his famous gourmet detective, Nero Wolfe. The educated English writer Dorothy Sayers, whose detective hero was an aristocrat, Lord Peter Wimsey, and the creative French writer Georges Simenon, who created Inspector Jules Maigret.
Detective stories are enjoyed because they have a pleasurable excitement and satisfaction. They deal with evil, which can be fascinating, and at the same time promises that good will triumph, that all loose threads will be tied and that the ending will be happy and complete. There are certain expectations the reader has for traditional murder mystery stories such as a murderer, a murder weapon, a detective, suspense and tension and a victim.
The Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a traditional detective story, containing all the expectations of the reader. In story the murderer is Dr Grimsby Roylott, a very violent and bad tempered man. He had already committed another murder before, in India. The murder victim was Julia Stoner. Her twin sister escaped from being murdered – ‘close attempt’. Dr Grimsby Roylott’s murder weapon was not like what a reader would normally expect. It was a snake, which was a pet of his.
The snake had been trained by Dr Grimsby Roylott to make its way down a bell rope and poison the first person it saw. When it heard a whistle it would make its way back up the bell rope and through a ventilator back into Roylott’s room. There it would be rewarded with some milk and then locked up in an iron safe. The snake was a good murder weapon because no evidence was left. Julia’s murder was almost a “perfect murder” but before she died she gave away a clue. She said “the speckled band”. This was a description of the snake. The motive for this murder was money. This story was full of suspense and tension especially when Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were waiting in Julia’ room.
Sherlock Holmes was shown to be a very good detective in this story as he picked up on every little detail. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were both extremely clever and successful. Their method was also good. They went through everything that had happened before and after the murder of Julia Stoner. The ending of this story was quite shocking. The setting of the story was very traditional, as it was set in a small town, in a manor. It is mainly all at night. There are a few questions that may remain in the readers mind like, “what is Helen going to do now?” and “what will happen to Stoke Moran?”
In lamb to the slaughter by Roald Dahl the murderer is Mary Maloney, the wife of the victim, Patrick Maloney. The murder weapon used in this story is a frozen leg of lamb. Mary Maloney got the police officers to eat the leg of lamb after it was cooked. This was a very clever way of getting rid of the evidence. This murder was “perfect murder” because there is no way her steps can be traced. Mary’s motive for the murder was revenge.
Her husband had just told her that he wanted a divorce, and she was 6 months pregnant. There were some points in the story where suspense and tension had been created like when we were waiting for the police to eat the leg of lamb – their only evidence. Sergeant Jack Noonan was the detective in this story, but he wasn’t a good one as he ate the evidence. Jack Noonan was not at all successful in solving the mystery. He and his team did not find any clues nor did they put any pieces together. This story is not set in a traditional setting. It is just set in an everyday house. Nor is this storyline traditional. It is more modern, nothing like the traditional detective story.
The speckled band fits the expectations of a traditional detective / murder mystery story. Lamb to the slaughter however did not fit the expectations of a traditional detective / murder mystery story at all. I think this could be because of the different times they were written in. It could also be the different styles of both authors. Roald Dahl is known to write children’s stories that are generally humorous, whereas Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is known to be a serious writer, who writes books for mainly adults and older children.