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Books and Reading: Mystery Fiction

THE MYSTERY GENRE

  A mystery can be defined as a work of fiction in which the character is asked to solve a puzzle.  Mysteries combine crime and detection and the central question is 'whodunit?'.  The focus of mysteries is on the detective and the process he or she uses to solve the crime. 

 Detectives in mystery stories are often characters who are developed over multi-title series.  They vary in type from amateurs to professionals.

 Source:  Genreflecting:  A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (7th ed.) by Cynthia Orr and Diana Tixier Herald (eds.)  Santa Barbara, CA:  ABC-CLIO, LLC. 2013

EARLY HISTORY OF THE MYSTERY GENRE

It is generally agreed that the mystery genre emerged in American literature in the mid-nineteenth century when Edgar Allan Poe introduced fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, a short story published in 1841. Click here to read the complete story (it is out of copyright compliance due to date or publication): https://www.poemuseum.org/the-murders-in-the-rue-morgue

Detective Dupin also appeared in The Mystery or Marie Roget (1842) https://www.eapoe.org/works/tales/rogetb.htm and The Purloined Letter (1845) https://poestories.com/read/purloined

In these stories Poe created the standard elements of detective fiction such as "the locked room mystery" and a brilliant eccentric detective who solves the crime through careful reasoning and an "examination of devices", both elements which are still in use today.

The British writers Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins also made signficant contributions to the mystery genre, including:

Bleak House,  The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Dickens) and The Woman in White and The Moonstone by Collins

Source:  The Mystery Readers' Advisory:  The Librarian's Clues to Murder and Mayhem by John Charles, Joanna Morrison and Candace Clark.  Chicago:  American Library Association, 2002.

FOUR SUBGENRES OF MYSTERY FICTION

Mystery and crime fiction often fall into four separate sub-genres, each with its own characteristics.  This fiction genres can be set in a wide variety of geographical and historical settings.  

Detective novels. These are crime novels that center around a detective (professional, amateur, or retired) investigating a crime or solving a murder case. Detective novels generally start with a mysterious incident or death and unfold as the detective follows leads, investigates suspects, and ultimately solves the case. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the world to the famous Sherlock Holmes in 1887, when he first began writing the series of stories featuring the popular detective. Other well-known detective novelists include Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Sue Grafton.

  1. Cozy mysteries. These are detective novels that contain no sex, violence, or profanity. In order to solve a case, the detective in a cozy mystery often uses their intellect as opposed to police procedures. The genre has some overlap with detective novels; for example, Agatha Christie is considered both a detective novelist and a cozy mystery novelist. Other well-known cozy mystery writers include Dorothy L. Sayers and Elizabeth Daly.
  2. Police procedural. These are mystery novels featuring a protagonist who is a member of the police force. Well-known police procedural novelists include Ed McBain, P. D. James, and Bartholomew Gill.
  3. Caper stories. These are mystery stories told from the point of view of the criminals rather than the detective trying to catch them. They take readers inside the crimes and heists, giving them full access to their motives, tricks, and swindles. Unlike most mysteries, caper stories often include elements of humor. Well-known caper story novelists include W. R. Burnett, John Boland, Peter O’Donnell, and Michael Crichton.

MYSTERY BOOK AWARDS: A SAMPLING

THE EDGAR ALLAN POE AWARDS

The Edgar Allan Poe Awards (popularly called the Edgars) are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America, based in New York City.   Named after American writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), a pioneer in the genre, the awards honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television, film, and theater published or produced in the previous year.

Click here to access the Edgars database: http://theedgars.com/awards/

 

THE NORTHFIELD LIBRARY MYSTERY BOOK GROUP

The purpose of the Northfield Library Mystery Book Group  is to have a time and place for a group of people excited by mystery novels, to get together for lively discussion. We come together to discuss books and authors we might not otherwise know about and  to challenge our minds to see the world through the different lenses of the author and club members.  Join us us for an evening of discussion and camaraderie.

NEW MEMBERS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME!
Please contact Jamie Stanley, Adult Services Librarian at the Northfield Library (jamie.stanley@ci.northfield.mn.us; 507-645-1802) if you have any questions or wish to be added to the mailing list.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THE NORTHFIELD LIBRARY MYSTERY BOOK GROUP

  1.   The Mystery Book Group meets the third Monday of each month from 6:30 - 8:00 pm  at All Saints Episcopalian Church located at 415 Washington Street, Northfield.
  2.   Book Group members choose one mystery title a month, with titles decided three months advance at every third meeting. 
  3.   The Northfield Public Library arranges for an adequate number of titles to be gathered and held at the library before each month for club members. 
  4.   Book Group  members are encouraged to serve as moderators at forthcoming meetings.