Crime-Mystery-Detective Stories Criticism: Overviews And General Studies - Essay

Dorothy L. Sayers (essay date 1928)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Sayers, Dorothy L. “The Omnibus of Crime.” In The Art of the Mystery Story: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Howard Haycraft, pp. 71-109. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1946.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1928 as the introduction to the anthology Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery, and Horror (published in the U.S. as the first Omnibus of Crime, 1929), Sayers provides an overview of the history and major developments of the crime-mystery-detective story.]

The art of self-tormenting is an ancient one, with a long and honourable literary tradition. Man, not satisfied with the mental confusion and unhappiness...

(The entire section is 14811 words.)

Gertrude Stein (essay date 1937)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Stein, Gertrude. “Why I Like Detective Stories.” In How Writing is Written, edited by Robert Bartlett Haas, pp. 146-50. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1974.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1937, Stein utilizes her experimental style of writing to capture the essence of the crime-mystery-detective story and the nature of its appeal to the reader.]

Life said Edgar is neither long nor short, and anybody knows that the only detective stories that anybody can read are written by Edgar. When Gerald Berners was here and his chauffeur William they both wanted detective stories, I gave William Edgar Wallace, he wanted Edgar Wallace, I cannot say...

(The entire section is 2178 words.)

Ellery Queen (essay date 1946)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Queen, Ellery. “The Detective Short Story: The First Hundred Years.” In The Art of the Mystery Story: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Howard Haycraft, pp. 476-91. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946.

[In the following essay, Queen provides an overview of the development of the crime-mystery-detective story from the 1840s to the 1940s.]


The first violent crime of literature was a murder, complete with victim, criminal, motive, and—inferentially—weapon; for although Chapter 4 of Genesis merely remarks: “Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him,” we may assume the instrument to have been a...

(The entire section is 5070 words.)

Thomas M. Leitch (essay date autumn 1983)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Leitch, Thomas M. “From Detective Story to Detective Novel.” Modern Fiction Studies 29, no. 3 (autumn 1983): 475-84.

[In the following essay, Leitch compares a number of crime-mystery-detective novels to the short stories from which they were expanded.]

The detective story, with its persistent emphasis on the one correct solution of a crime, is the most resolutely end-oriented of narrative modes. Given the financial pressures of writing, however, it is hardly surprising that authors of detective stories should occasionally seek to postpone that end by turning their short stories into novels. What is most interesting in this process is not questioning the...

(The entire section is 4695 words.)

Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini (essay date 1997)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Muller, Marcia, and Bill Pronzini. Introduction to Detective Duos, edited by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini, pp. 3-14. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

[In the following introduction to an anthology of crime-mystery-detective stories that focuses on pairs of detective-heroes working together, Muller and Pronzini provide an overview of detective duos created by various authors.]

Fictional characters who work together in one capacity or another to solve a mystery have been a staple of the crime-fiction genre since Edgar Allan Poe wrote the first detective story in the early 1840s. Such characters may be amateur or professional or a combination of the...

(The entire section is 5871 words.)

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney (essay date 1999)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Sweeney, Susan Elizabeth. “‘Subject-Cases’ and ‘Book-Cases’: Impostures and Forgeries from Poe to Auster.” In Detecting Texts: The Metaphysical Detective Story from Poe to Postmodernism, edited by Patricia Merivale and Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, pp. 247-69. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.

[In the following essay, Sweeney discusses crime-mystery-detective short stories in which the protagonist is faced with his or her own double, contending that these stories address themes of identity crisis and the validity of the written text.]


… we suppose a case, and put ourselves into...

(The entire section is 10250 words.)

Tony Hillerman (essay date 2000)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Hillerman, Tony. Introduction to The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, edited by Tony Hillerman, pp. xiv-xviii. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

[In the following essay, Hillerman provides a brief overview of the development of the crime-mystery-detective story over the course of the twentieth century.]

If I, alone, were stuck with the Herculean task of selecting the best mystery stories of the twentieth century, I'm afraid they would be clustered in periods. I'd give you a lot of tales from the years between the wars when thousands of good writers were supporting their families with yarns spun for the pulps. I'd pick out a dozen or so from those...

(The entire section is 1803 words.)