Robert Barnard Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

A literary critic and academic scholar, Robert Barnard is recognized as one of the leading practitioners of the pure detective story. As a mystery writer, he works within the classic tradition and is often said to have inherited Agatha Christie’s mantle, for like her, he writes of murder among everyday people and often uses conventional plotting devices. His works, however, unlike Christie’s, are often humorous and filled with social satire. Barnard’s novels follow the customary plot progression from buildup, to crime, to investigation by police, to solution; however, Barnard experiments, sometimes using a first-person narrator or offering several narrators’ points of view. His settings are not the street corner, the gang, the brothel, or even the police station. Rather, he centers his novels at opera houses, local pubs, writers’ conventions, English villages, universities, parishes, and theaters.

Barnard has been well received in Great Britain, although he acknowledges that it was his American audience that enabled him to leave his professorship in Norway in 1983 to return to England and become a full-time writer. Barnard suggests that fellow mystery writers remember their purpose, noting, “I write only to entertain.” Also, he advises them to cherish the conventions, and, in general, to seek not to spoil the recipe of this popular genre.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Barnard, Robert. “Growing Up to Crime.” In Colloquium on Crime, edited by Robin W. Winks. New York: Scribner, 1986. Bernard discusses his creative process, focusing on improvisation and on the use of caricature, humor, and, suspense; also discusses mystery novels as a genre.

Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie. Rev. ed. New York: Mysterious Press, 1987. Barnard’s work on the author whom he most admired sheds light on his understanding of the classical detective novel and how he interpreted it in his own works.

Barnard, Robert. “Why oh Why? Motivation in the Crime Novel.” Writer 108, no. 8 (August, 1995): 3. Barnard talks about writing mysteries, particularly cozies, and creating plausible motives for crimes.

Breen, Jon L. “Robert Barnard.” In Mystery and Suspense Writers: The Literature of Crime, Detection, and Espionage, edited by Robin W. Winks. New York: Scribner, 1998. Provides biographical details, an analysis of Barnard’s critical writings, and a look at the historical novels and short stories.

Ford, Susan Allen. “Stately Homes of England: Robert Barnard’s Country House Mysteries.” Clues 23, no. 4 (Summer, 2005): 3-14. Ford analyzes Barnard’s use of the traditional detective novel form used in the Golden Age of mysteries. Compares his work to that of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh.

Herbert, Rosemary. “Robert Barnard.” In The Fatal Art of Entertainment: Interviews with Mystery Writers. New York: Hall, 1994. Updates a 1985 interview, covering Barnard’s use of personal experience in his fiction, his favorite writers, and his attitudes toward literary allusion and the populist entertainment aspects of the mystery genre.