Marie Belloc Lowndes Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Marie Belloc Lowndes was one of the first novelists to base her work on historical criminal cases, at times utilizing actual courtroom testimony. This innovation, however, presented her with a dilemma: If the reader knows the outcome of the problem, where is the suspense? Lowndes’s solution was to focus attention not on the crime but on the underlying motives and, above all, on the reactions of those affected by its consequences. Most of her characters, whether murderers, accomplices, or bystanders, are ordinary people who, to their horror, become gradually enmeshed in circumstances beyond their control. Lowndes, unique in her day, was particularly adept at portraying the psychology of women who not only shielded criminals but also could be cold-blooded killers. It is to one extraordinary, even mythical, figure in criminal lore, however, that Lowndes owes her place of honor in the mystery hall of fame. In The Lodger (1913), she was the first to seize on the rich material latent in the Jack the Ripper murders. She also was the first to participate in the game of guessing the Ripper’s identity. Her assumption that the hierarchy of the Metropolitan Police knew and covered up the identity of the murderer has formed the basis of many subsequent theories concerning the notorious serial killer.

Marie Belloc Lowndes Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Kestner, Joseph A. The Edwardian Detective, 1901-1915. Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 2000. Reads Lowndes as emerging from and continuing the Edwardian tradition in detective fiction.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Contains an essay describing Lowndes’s life and works.

Lowndes, Marie Belloc. Diaries and Letters of Marie Belloc Lowndes, 1911-1947. Edited by Susan Lowndes. London: Chatto & Windus, 1971. These collected correspondence and diaries of the author provide insight into her writing process and personal experiences.

Murch, Alma E. The Development of the Detective Novel. New York: Philosophical Library, 1958. Broad overview of the detective novel and of Lowndes’s place in its history.

Odell, Robin. Jack the Ripper in Fact and Fiction. London: Harrap, 1965. Reads Lowndes’s The Lodger as an early contribution to what became the large body of fiction devoted to Jack the Ripper and “Ripperology.”

Strauss, Marc Raymond. “The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog.” In Alfred Hitchcock’s Silent Films. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2004. Examination of the famous film adaptation of Lowndes’s equally famous novel; compares the narrative strategies employed in each version of the story.