Auden, W. H. “The Guilty Vicarage.” Harper’s Magazine 196 (May, 1948): 406-412. This explanation of poet Auden’s formula for the mystery genre discusses five necessary elements: milieu (“The Great Good Place,” a closed, innocent society), victim (someone lots of people want to kill), murderer (a proud person who does not seem so), suspects, and the detective, whose task it is to restore innocence.
Ball, John, ed. The Mystery Story: An Appreciation. San Diego: University Extension, University of California, 1976. Collection of sixteen essays, all but one of which was previously unpublished, on various aspects of the genre. Among the topics covered are amateur detectives, notable crooks, private investigators, women in detective fiction, the police procedurals, and gothic mysteries. Includes an annotated bibliography of criticism of the genre.
Bargainnier, Earl F., ed. Twelve Englishmen of Mystery. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Press, 1984. Collection of essays on a dozen British mystery writers: Wilkie Collins, A. E. W. Mason, G. K. Chesterton, H. C. Bailey, Anthony Berkeley, Nicholas Blake, Michael Gilbert, Julian Symons, Dick Francis, Edmund Crispin, H. R. F. Keating, and Simon Brett. Provides a bibliography of works by each author.
Budd, Elaine. Thirteen Mistresses of Murder. New York: Ungar, 1986. Essays on late twentieth century British and American women mystery writers: Mary Higgins Clark, Amanda Cross, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Lady Antonia Fraser, Lucy Freeman, Dorothy B. Hughes, P. D. James, Emma Lathen, Margaret Millar, Shannon O’Cork, Ruth Rendell, Dorothy Uhnak, and Phyllis A. Whitney. For each author Budd provides a brief critical-biographical introduction followed by a detailed analysis of one book. Concludes with a selective bibliography of the authors’ works.
Charney, Hanna. The Detective Novel of Manners: Hedonism, Morality, and the Life of Reason. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1981. Examines authors who have shaped detective novels—as opposed to short stories—since the 1920’s. Charney argues for the rationality of the detective novel but also for its concern with character, setting, and humanistic values. Sees detective novels as heir to nineteenth century novels of manners.
Cohen, Michael. Murder Most Fair: The Appeal of Mystery Fiction. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 2000. Discussion of what makes mysteries so popular. The first chapter addresses this question from the perspective of form. The second chapter examines thematic, stylistic, and ideological aspects. The final chapter argues that modern detective fiction and mainstream literature have overlapped, with the former exploring questions of doubt and identity, the latter using suspense and indeterminacy. Extensive bibliography.
Craig, Patricia, and Mary Cadogen. The Lady Investigates: Women Detectives and Spies in Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981. Traces the treatment of women detectives beginning with The Revelations of a Lady Detective (1861) and The Female Detective (1864). Notes that many of these works, even by women, have not championed feminist causes, though by the late twentieth century this situation was changing.
Depken, Friedrich. Sherlock Holmes, Raffles, and Their Prototypes. Translated by Jay Finley Christ. Chicago: Fanlight House, 1949. First published in German at Heidelberg in 1914, this short history and analysis of detective fiction from its beginnings in the nineteenth century discusses such elements as deduction, suspense, heroes, and narrators. Concludes with a defense of the genre.
Dove, George N. The Police Procedural. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1982. Examines the work of twenty-five creators of police detectives and discusses the nature of police procedurals, the police subculture they depict, and differences between American and European treatments of the subgenre. Other chapters are devoted to women, black, Hispanic, and Jewish detectives and to individual authors whose investigators do not easily fit into any of those categories. Includes a checklist of works by the writers covered.
Dove, George N., and Earl F. Bargainnier, eds. Cops and Constables: American and British Fictional Policemen. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Press, 1986. Through an examination of a variety of twentieth century fictional police detectives, this collection of thirteen essays illustrates differences and similarities among mystery writers. Seven essays deal with American authors, five with British. The concluding essay looks more generally at late twentieth century fictional British policemen.
Geharin, David. The American Private Eye: The Image in Fiction. New York: Ungar, 1985. Chronological examination of more than two dozen fictional detectives, beginning with the 1920’s. Discusses the origins of the figure, how and why portrayals of the private eye have changed over time, and the reasons for the characters’ enduring popularity. Sees fictional American private eyes as combining romantic idealism and pragmatism that “bring a measure of truth and justice to an imperfect world.”
Grella, George. “Murder and Manners: The Formal Detective Novel.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 4 (Fall, 1970): 30-48. Explains the genre’s popularity by linking it to comedies of manners. Grella argues that detectives, settings, stock characters, criminals, and victims all conform to the conventions of that earlier literary form and that in both, stories end with order being restored. Also sees the appeal of detective novels as escapist fiction.
Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Literature High and Low: The Case of the Mystery Story.” In The Fate of Reading and Other Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975. Mysteries provide rational explanations of the irrational, and Hartman argues that the genre is a product of the Enlightenment that remains attached to its origins. He regards mysteries as concerned more with solving problems than with examining them. For Hartman, mysteries are moralistic, stylized, and unrealistic. He pays particular attention to the work of Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald.
Haut, Woody. Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction. London: Serpent’s Tail, 1999. Looks at American detective fiction from the mid-1960’s to the mid-1990’s with its historical and cultural settings.
Haycraft, Howard, ed. The Art of the Mystery Story: A Collection of Critical Essays. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1946. Classic collection of essays, many of whose contributors were themselves leading writers of detective fiction. Dorothy L. Sayers writes about her masterful novel Gaudy Night (1935). Other contributors include G. K. Chesterton, Raymond Chandler, and John Dickson Carr. Additional essays were written by leading critics of the period, such as Joseph Wood Krutch and Edmund Wilson. Contains Ronald A. Knox’s classic 1928 essay, “Detective Story Decalogue.”
Haycraft, Howard, ed. Murder for Pleasure: The Life and Times of the Detective Story. New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1941. History of the genre beginning with Edgar Allan Poe, focusing on the writers Haycraft believes contributed most to the development of the mystery. Includes a list of detectives matched with their creators and a chronologically arranged bibliography of landmark works.
Herman, Linda, and Beth Sties. Corpus Delicti of Mystery Fiction: A Guide to the Body of the Case. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1974. After opening with a brief defense of the genre, the authors define basic terms and list major reference works. The fourth chapter provides a brief history of detective fiction. Almost the balance of the book consists primarily of bio-bibliographies of fifty mystery writers.
Hilfer, Tony. The Crime Novel: A Deviant Genre. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990. Distinguishes between the crime novel and detective fiction. In the former, “guilt and innocence are problematic.” The effect of such works is to provoke rather than to allay anxiety. Hilfer focuses his discussion on major practitioners of the crime novel, including Raymond Chandler, Georges Simenon, Margaret Millar, and Patricia Highsmith.
Irons, Glenwood, ed. Feminism in Women’s Detective Fiction. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995. These essays explore how women mystery writers have created new versions of women detectives and of the mystery genre itself. While discussing writers of different periods in both the United States and Great Britain, almost all the contributors argue that women detectives, even Nancy Drew, champion feminist ideals. An opposing view can be found in Kathleen Gregory Klein’s The Woman Detective (1995), below.
Keating, H. R. F. Murder Must Appetize. London: Lemon Tree Press, 1975. Paean to British mysteries of the 1930’s, with a guide to Keating’s favorite works of the period.
Kelly, R. Gordon. Mystery Fiction and Modern Life. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998. Kelly regards post-World War II detective fiction as a guide to dealing with the uncertainties of life through planning, attention to detail, and objectivity. Although the world of these novels is risky, it is knowable, so risks can be assessed and overcome.
Kestner, Joseph A. The Edwardian Detective, 1901-1915. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2000. Examines detective fiction of the first decade and a half of the twentieth century from the perspective of cultural history. Considers how such issues as legal reform, international diplomacy, the arms race, fears of Germany, and attitudes toward gender are reflected in these works.
Klein, Kathleen Gregory. The Woman Detective: Gender and Genre. 2d ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995. Klein’s chronological survey of the subject argues that even though women detectives...