Arnold Bennett Mystery & Detective Fiction Analysis

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Arnold Bennett began his career working as an editor, a position that allowed him to read many raw manuscripts. Among these were several detective stories. As he began to prepare for his life as a professional author, he read widely in the mystery and detective genre and was especially influenced by the work ofÉmile Gaboriau. As Bennett began his own work, he employed aspects of detection in his novels, as in The Grand Babylon Hotel, which features corpses, and the detection mysteries posed by corpses, within a general description of life in a luxurious resort hotel. Bennett was also interested enough in detection to work for several months with his close friend H. G. Wells on the writing of a play called “The Crime.” The play was never produced because it was to open with a corpse on the stage, something thought by producers to bring bad luck. The text of the play is no longer extant.

The Loot of Cities

In 1903, Bennett began a series of short-fiction pieces for The Windsor Magazine. The six interconnected stories were published in 1904 as the novel The Loot of Cities, and the book was republished in the United States in 1972 as a volume designed for collectors of little-known detective fiction. In the book, a detective, Cecil Thorold, also a millionaire, is out for a good time. He eventually falls in love with one of the other characters after traveling to Brussels, Switzerland, and the Mediterranean. The book, although not one of Bennett’s best, illustrates his style and his method of description.


Bennett’s next venture into these themes was the novel Hugo (1906), which is little known. The work is modeled to some degree on the style of Gaboriau and uses coincidence, as well as Bennett’s sense of mood and life in foreign areas, to drive the plot. Bennett tends to contrast life in cities and towns in his writing, and, although it is traditional for the city to be denigrated in these comparisons, Bennett is more interested in comparing life in the city and the country objectively. Decisions that...

(The entire section is 861 words.)