Arthur B. Reeve Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

ph_0111228340-Reeve_Arthur.jpg Arthur B. Reeve. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

The twenty-six books about scientific detective Craig Kennedy were once among the most popular detective stories by an American writer, with sales of two million copies in the United States alone. Arthur B. Reeve was popular primarily because of his emphasis on the use of the latest scientific devices to solve mysteries. Reeve was not one to waste time on deeply etched characters; he focused instead on an imaginative rendition of a scientific marvel—the Maxim silencer, an oxyacetylene blowtorch, the Dictaphone, the seismograph, liquid rubber to conceal fingerprints—with which the crime was committed or by means of which Kennedy could solve the mystery. The very reason for Reeve’s popularity in the years before World War I, his topicality, dates the stories and makes him a largely forgotten author.

Reeve’s straightforward, journalistic style, combined with a lively imagination and an ability to tell a good story in spite of his cardboard characters, makes the earliest episodes readable and entertaining, despite his scientific marvels having become commonplace. The emphasis on topicality makes them documents for the social scientist rather than the literary critic.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Cox, J. Randolph. “A Reading of Reeve: Some Thoughts on the Creator of Craig Kennedy.” The Armchair Detective 11 (January, 1978): 28-33. A critical examination of Reeve and his crime-solving chemistry professor.

Frank, Lawrence. Victorian Detective Fiction and the Nature of Evidence: The Scientific Investigations of Poe, Dickens, and Doyle. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Study of Reeve’s immediate precursors and influences in the representative of science being used to solve crimes.

Harwood, John. “Arthur B. Reeve and the American Sherlock Holmes.” The Armchair Detective 10 (October, 1977): 354-357. Brief reading of Craig Kennedy’s use of science in relation to Sherlock Holmes’s own forensic scientific method.

Moskowitz, Sam. “Crime: From Sherlock to Spaceships.” In Strange Horizons: The Spectrum of Science Fiction. New York: Scribner, 1976. Looks at Reeve’s work at the intersection of mystery and science fiction.

Panek, LeRoy Lad. The Origins of the American Detective Story. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2006. Study of the beginnings and establishment of American detective-fiction conventions that focuses on the replacement of the police by the private detective and the place of forensic science in the genre; provides perspective for understanding Reeve’s work.

Thomas, Ronald R. Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Study of the mutual influence of mystery authors and forensic scientists on each other that sheds light on Reeve’s work. Bibliographic references and index.