10 Rules of the Mystery/Detective Novels

I gave a 3 day course on the origins of the London Mystery novel for Elderhostel.

We had an interactive session where we discussed the ten commandments of the mystery novel.

They were in no particular order:

1. the Author should not be the criminal

2. the Criminal should not be introduced for the first time right at the end of the novel

3. The Reader should not need a spreadsheet to collate signs, clues and suspects

4. The murderer should not be the Butler

5. The author should provide sufficient clues to allow the reader to solve the case

6. The murderer should not have diplomatic immunity

7. No totally unexpected outside agencies or witnesses should be introduced

8. The murderer should not be an animal or provide vital clues to the murder (unless it is a bloodhound).

9. Dead people should not be brought back to life

10 The murderer should not be the twin, or a long lost cousin of one of the main suspects

The main thesis of the introductory talk was that the main strands to the development of the Detective novel were 3 fold:

1. 'True-life' Crime stories - from Suzanne and Daniel to the Newgate Calender of the 18th Century
2. Developments in Policing - particularly the the Surete in Paris, the Bow Street Runners, and the metropolitan Police in London.
3. Development of Logical scientific rationalism from Aristotle to Voltaire's Zadiq to Poe's Dupin and ofcourse Sherlock Holmes
4. Developments in criminal store forms from Vidocq of the Surete, to the Murders on the Rue Morgue by Poe, Inspector Bucket, and Sargent Cuff by Dickens and Collins, Lecoq by Gabariou.


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