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What sort of short story is "The Red-Headed League" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

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"The Red-Headed League" is a detective story, part of a series of stories focusing on the cases of Sherlock Holmes, the great fictional detective. As a writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is credited with popularizing the idea of the detective story (although Holmes was not actually the first fictional detective). A type of mystery story, the detective story is usually considered a subgenre in itself, the idea being that a consulting detective is presented with a case from a client, which he then must solve.

"The Red-Headed League" was first published in The Strand magazine and was intended to stand alone. While all the stories in the Sherlock Holmes canon are connected through their central characters, there are many inconsistencies, and it is not necessary to have read any of the others in order to understand the context of this one. The general premise is that Holmes's companion, Dr. Watson, the narrator of the story, is in fact writing the story up in retrospect for publication in The Strand: the story therefore has an interesting metatextual aspect. Watson narrates the story in the first person, in the past tense, and has a limited perspective—the story does not know anything that Dr. Watson could not know. As a character, Watson serves to illuminate the central character, Holmes himself, whose brilliance is demonstrated through his solving of the mystery.

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The short story "The Red-Headed League" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is in the subgenre of mystery story. Mystery stories are a subgenre because they have particular and definitive elements and features. For instance, a mystery must solve a mystery, must have a detective (or a homegrown sleuth like Nancy Drew), must have a foul crime, must answer Who did it? How was it done? and Why was it done? Major genres don't have such particularly defining features and are built around character development as opposed to attaining some end such as the solution of a mystery.

"The Red-Headed League" was first published in 1891 during the reign of Queen Victoria of England and is therefore a Victorian novel. Arthur Conan Doyle was eventual knighted by King Edward VII for his contribution as a doctor in the Boer War, which is when he became Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Born in Scotland, Doyle trained in medicine under Dr. Joseph Bell who had legendary powers of observation and upon whom Doyle later built the basis of the character of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle was influenced by Edgar Allen Poe in his development of the Sherlock Holmes stories, the first one of which he introduced in 1887, that being A Study in Scarlet. All these elements together describe what sort of story "The Red-Headed League" is.

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