Mystery fiction

Mystery fiction is a genre of fiction usually involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. Often with a closed circle of suspects, each suspect is usually provided with a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity for committing the crime. The central character oftentimes will be a detective who eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction from facts presented to the reader.[1] Sometimes mystery books are nonfictional. "Mystery fiction" can be detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle or suspense element and its logical solution such as a whodunit. Mystery fiction can be contrasted with hardboiled detective stories, which focus on action and gritty realism.

Mystery fiction may involve a supernatural mystery where the solution does not have to be logical, and even no crime involved. This usage was common in the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, where titles such as Dime Mystery, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Mystery offered what at the time were described as "weird menace" stories—supernatural horror in the vein of Grand Guignol. This contrasted with parallel titles of the same names which contained conventional hardboiled crime fiction. The first use of "mystery" in this sense was by Dime Mystery, which started out as an ordinary crime fiction magazine but switched to "weird menace" during the later part of 1933.[2]

Mystery January 1934
Mystery, 1934 mystery fiction magazine cover


The genre of mystery novels is a young form of literature that has developed since the early-19th century. The rise of literacy began in the years of the English Renaissance and, as people began to read over time, they became more individualistic in their thinking. As people became more individualistic in their thinking, they developed a respect for human reason and the ability to solve problems.[3][4]

Perhaps a reason that mystery fiction was unheard of before the 1800s was due in part to the lack of true police forces. Before the Industrial Revolution, many of the towns would have constables and a night watchman at best. Naturally, the constable would be aware of every individual in the town, and crimes were either solved quickly or left unsolved entirely. As people began to crowd into cities, police forces became institutionalized, and the need for detectives was realized – thus the mystery novel arose.[5]

Mystery collection (3219160455)
Novels by Agatha Christie

An early work of modern mystery fiction, Das Fräulein von Scuderi by E. T. A. Hoffmann (1819), was an influence on The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe (1841) as may have been Voltaire's Zadig. Wilkie Collins' epistolary novel The Woman in White was published in 1860, while The Moonstone (1868) is often thought to be his masterpiece. In 1887 Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes, whose mysteries are said to have been singularly responsible for the huge popularity in this genre. The genre began to expand near the turn of century with the development of dime novels and pulp magazines. Books were especially helpful to the genre, with many authors writing in the genre in the 1920s. 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 respectively (and were later written by his daughter, Harriet Adams, and other authors). The 1920s also gave rise to one of the most popular mystery authors of all time, Agatha Christie, whose works include Murder on the Orient Express (1934), Death on the Nile (1937), and the world's best-selling mystery And Then There Were None (1939).[6]

The massive popularity of pulp magazines in the 1930s and 1940s increased interest in mystery fiction. Pulp magazines decreased in popularity in the 1950s with the rise of television 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 Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee) is also credited with continuing interest in mystery fiction.

Interest in mystery fiction continues to this day because of various television shows which have used mystery themes and the many juvenile and adult novels which continue to be published. There is some overlap with "thriller" or "suspense" novels and authors in those genres may consider themselves mystery novelists. Comic books and graphic novels have carried on the tradition, and film adaptations or the even-more-recent web-based detective series, have helped to re-popularize the genre in recent times.[7]


Mystery fiction can be divided into numerous categories, including "traditional mystery", "legal thriller", "medical thriller", "cozy mystery", "police procedural", and "hardboiled".

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Haining, Peter (2000). The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines. Prion Books. ISBN 1-85375-388-2.
  3. ^ "A Short History of the Mystery". Archived from the original on 19 July 2009.
  4. ^ "Mystery Time Line".
  5. ^ Gilber, Elliot (1983). The World of Mystery Fiction. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press. ISBN 0-87972-225-8.
  6. ^ Davies, Helen; Marjorie Dorfman; Mary Fons; Deborah Hawkins; Martin Hintz; Linnea Lundgren; David Priess; Julia Clark Robinson; Paul Seaburn; Heidi Stevens; Steve Theunissen (14 September 2007). "21 Best-Selling Books of All Time". Editors of Publications International, Ltd. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
  7. ^ J. Madison Davis: "How graphic can a mystery be?", World Literature Today, July–August 2007 Archived 25 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine

External links

Alfred Hitchcock's Anthology

Alfred Hitchcock's Anthology (AHA) was a seasonally printed collection of suspenseful and thrilling short stories reprinted from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Produced from 1977 to 1989, the anthology contains stories from authors such as: Patricia Highsmith, Robert Bloch, Bill Pronzini, Isaac Asimov, and Lawrence Block. The anthology is marketed as everything you would "expect from the Master of Suspense", though Hitchcock never had any direct involvement with the publications.

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (AHMM) is a monthly digest size fiction magazine specializing in crime and detective fiction. AHMM is named for Alfred Hitchcock, the famed director of suspense films and television.

Big Secrets

Big Secrets is a series of books written by William Poundstone, and also the title of the series' first book.


Bouchercon, the Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention, is an annual convention of creators and devotees of mystery and detective fiction. It is named in honour of writer, reviewer, and editor Anthony Boucher, and pronounced the way he pronounced his name, rhyming with "voucher".It is held annually in the fall, each year being hosted in a different city by a different group of volunteers. The convention typically starts on Thursday and finishes on Sunday.

Each year, Bouchercon nominates and votes the Anthony Awards for excellence in crime fiction, including: Best Novel, Best First Novel, Best Short Story, Best Critical Non-Fiction, and Best Paperback Original.

People who attend are fans, authors, agents, booksellers, publishers and other people who read and enjoy mystery and crime fiction. The first one was held in Santa Monica, California in 1970. The guest of honor was Robert Bloch of Psycho fame.

Registered attendees of each Bouchercon are designated as 'members', and vote at the annual business meeting (held during the convention) on necessary business items. Bouchercon's governing body is its Standing Committee, which changes year to year, being made up of people who have hosted and will host the convention, and three at large members who are elected by the membership.

Detective Story Magazine

Detective Story Magazine was an American magazine published by Street & Smith from October 15, 1915 to Summer, 1949 (1,057 issues). It was one of the first pulp magazines devoted to detective fiction and consisted of short stories and serials. While the publication was the publishing house's first detective-fiction pulp magazine in a format resembling a modern paperback (a "thick book" in dime-novel parlance), Street & Smith had only recently ceased publication of the dime-novel series Nick Carter Weekly, which concerned the adventures of a young detective.

From February 21, 1931 to its demise, the magazine was titled Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine. During half of its 34-year life, the magazine was popular enough to support weekly issues. Ludwig Wittgenstein, the eminent philosopher, was among the magazine's readership.

Edgar Award

The Edgar Allan Poe Awards (popularly called the Edgars), named after Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America, based in New York City. They honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television, film, and theater published or produced in the previous year.

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine is an American digest size fiction magazine specializing in crime fiction, particularly detective fiction, and mystery fiction. Launched in fall 1941 by Mercury Press, EQMM is named after the fictitious author Ellery Queen, who wrote novels and short stories about a fictional detective named Ellery Queen. From 1993, EQMM changed its cover title to be Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (without the 's), but the table of contents still retains the full name.

Historical mystery

The historical mystery or historical whodunit is a subgenre of two literary genres, historical fiction and mystery fiction. These works are set in a time period considered historical from the author's perspective, and the central plot involves the solving of a mystery or crime (usually murder). Though works combining these genres have existed since at least the early 20th century, many credit Ellis Peters's Cadfael Chronicles (1977–1994) for popularizing what would become known as the historical mystery. The increasing popularity and prevalence of this type of fiction in subsequent decades has spawned a distinct subgenre recognized by the publishing industry and libraries. Publishers Weekly noted in 2010 of the genre, "The past decade has seen an explosion in both quantity and quality. Never before have so many historical mysteries been published, by so many gifted writers, and covering such a wide range of times and places." Editor Keith Kahla concurs, "From a small group of writers with a very specialized audience, the historical mystery has become a critically acclaimed, award-winning genre with a toehold on the New York Times bestseller list."Since 1999, the British Crime Writers' Association has awarded the CWA Historical Dagger award to novels in the genre. The Left Coast Crime conference has presented its Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery award (for mysteries set prior to 1950) since 2004.

Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan

Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan (本格ミステリ作家クラブ, Honkaku Misuteri Sakka Kurabu) is a Japan-based organization for mystery writers who write honkaku (i.e. authentic, orthodox) mystery.

The organization was founded on 3 November 2000 by Yukito Ayatsuji, Natsuhiko Kyogoku, Hiroko Minagawa, Kaoru Kitamura, Tetsuya Ayukawa and other mystery writers. It is currently chaired by Rintaro Norizuki and claims about 170 members.

It presents the Honkaku Mystery Awards to writers every year and produces the annual anthology.

Mysterious Press

Mysterious Press is an American publishing imprint specializing in mystery fiction based in New York City. The company, founded in 1975 by Otto Penzler, has been associated with various companies over the years; since 2011, it has been an imprint at Grove Atlantic. The offices of the Mysterious Press are located within The Mysterious Bookshop in the Tribeca neighborhood. The Mysterious Press imprint is separate from, which is wholly owned by Otto Penzler.

Mystery Readers International

Mystery Readers International is a fan/reader organization open to all readers, fans, critics, editors, publishers, and writers of Mystery fiction. It was founded by Janet A. Rudolph in Berkeley, California.

It publishes the Mystery Readers Journal quarterly.

It presents the Macavity Awards annually in several categories, including: Best Mystery Novel, Best First Mystery Novel, Best Bio/Critical Mystery Work, Best Mystery Short Story. The Macavity is named for T.S. Eliot's "mystery cat", from his Old Possum's Book of Cats. The first awards were issued in 1987.

Red herring

A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences towards a false conclusion. A red herring might be intentionally used, such as in mystery fiction or as part of rhetorical strategies (e.g., in politics), or it could be inadvertently used during argumentation.

The term was popularized in 1807 by English polemicist William Cobbett, who told a story of having used a kipper (a strong-smelling smoked fish) to divert hounds from chasing a hare.

Roald Dahl bibliography

Roald Dahl (1916–1990) was a British author and scriptwriter, and "the most popular writer of children's books since Enid Blyton", according to Philip Howard, the literary editor of The Times. The death of an elder sister and his father within a few months when he was three gave his writing "a black savagery". He was raised by his Norwegian mother, who took him on annual trips to Norway, where she told him the stories of trolls and witches present in the dark Scandinavian fables. Dahl was influenced by the stories, and returned to many of the themes in his children's books. His mother also nurtured a passion in the young Dahl for reading and literature.During the Second World War Dahl was a pilot in the Royal Air Force (RAF) until he crashed in the Libyan desert; the subsequent injuries left him unfit to fly. He was posted to Washington as an assistant air attaché, ostensibly a diplomatic post, but which also included espionage and propaganda work. In 1942 the writer C.S. Forester asked him to provide details of his experiences in North Africa which Forester hoped to use in an article in The Saturday Evening Post. Instead of the notes which Forester expected, Dahl sent a finished story for which he was paid $900. The work led to The Gremlins, a serialised story in Cosmopolitan about a mischievous and fictional RAF creature, the gremlin; the work was published as Dahl's first novel in 1943. Dahl continued to write short stories, although these were all aimed at the adult market. They were sold to magazines and newspapers, and were later compiled into collections, the first of which was published in 1946. Dahl began to make up bedtime stories for the children, and these formed the basis of several of his stories. His first children's novel, James and the Giant Peach, was published in 1961, which was followed, along with others, by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), Fantastic Mr Fox (1970), Danny, the Champion of the World (1975), The BFG (1982) and Matilda in 1988.Dahl's first script was for a stage work, The Honeys, which appeared on Broadway in 1955. He followed this with a television script, "Lamb to the Slaughter", for the Alfred Hitchcock Presents series. He also co-wrote screenplays for film, including for You Only Live Twice (1967) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). In 1982 Dahl published the first of three editions of poems—all aimed at children. The following year he edited a book of ghost stories. He also wrote several works of non-fiction, including three autobiographies, a cookery book, a safety leaflet for the British railways and a book on measles, which was about the death of his daughter Olivia from measles encephalitis.As at 2015, Dahl's works have been translated into 59 languages and have sold more than 200 million books worldwide. His awards for contribution to literature include the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the British Book Awards' Children's Author of the Year in 1990. In 2008 The Times placed Dahl 16th on its list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945". He has been referred to by an anonymous writer for The Independent as "one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century" On Dahl's death in 1990, Howard considered him "one of the most widely read and influential writers of our generation".

Sisters in Crime

Sisters in Crime is an organization that has 3,600 members in 48 countries worldwide, offering networking, advice and support to mystery authors. Members are authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians bound by their affection for the mystery genre and their support of women who write mysteries.

Events leading up to the formation of Sisters in Crime included a conference at Hunter College on Women in the Mystery Genre in 1986, at which Sara Paretsky spoke on growing use of graphic sadism against women in mysteries; a letter by Phyllis Whitney to the Mystery Writers of America, pointing out that women weren't being nominated for awards; an initial meeting of interested women at the October 1986 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Baltimore convened by Sara Paretsky; and a meeting at Sandra Scoppettone's loft during the annual Edgars week, at which the organization was formed.The Sisters in Crime mission statement:

"To combat discrimination against women in the mystery field, educate publishers and the general public as to inequities in the treatment of female authors, raise the level of awareness of their contributions to the field, and promote the professional advancement of women who write mysteries."

The Italian Secretary

The Italian Secretary is mystery fiction by Caleb Carr featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. This literary pastiche had the approval of the Doyle estate having originally been commissioned as a short story for the collection Ghosts of Baker Street which then expanded into a novel.

The Reaper's Image

"The Reaper's Image" is a horror story by American writer Stephen King, first published in Startling Mystery Stories in 1969 and collected in Skeleton Crew in 1985. The story is about an antique mirror haunted by the visage of the Grim Reaper, who appears to those who gaze into it.

The Small Assassin (short story)

"The Small Assassin" is a short story by American author Ray Bradbury. It was first published in the November, 1946 issue of Dime Mystery. It was collected in Bradbury's anthology Dark Carnival and later collected in the anthologies The October Country, The Autumn People, The Small Assassin, The Stories of Ray Bradbury and The Vintage Bradbury.

Wesley Township, Will County, Illinois

Wesley Township is located in Will County, Illinois. As of the 2010 census, its population was 2,241 and it contained 891 housing units. Wesley Township was formed from the south-eastern part of Wilmington Township in 1846. Wesley, Illinois was the setting for a murder in the 1966 mystery fiction book "Deadline" by Thomas B. Dewey

What's in a Name?

"What's in a Name?" is a mystery short story by Isaac Asimov. It first appeared in the June 1956 issue of The Saint Detective Magazine under the title Death of a Honey-Blonde and was reprinted in the 1968 collection Asimov's Mysteries under its original title.

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