In 1887, an eye doctor with no patients had his first story published about a ‘consulting detective’ who would one day take over the world. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet the world’ gets its first glimpse at what would become the most famous detective in crime fiction, Sherlock Holmes.
There had been a handful of detectives in fiction before Holmes, but no one came close to his popularity. Even today, readers often consider him as the quintessential detective who many of today’s mystery writers try to emulate.
The classical mystery story came to its heyday in the 1920s and 30s. World War I had just ended, and the world was coming through the 1918 flu pandemic that infected a third of the world’s population.
In England, the classic mystery had already been established by Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The stories showed the reader a very upper society, very proper, with tea being served often. The detective often had a tie to police, but were intellectually superior. They were often given a reluctant acceptance by the local law enforcement officer. Sometimes, the police would call them in because they couldn’t solve the case, but more often the detective burst onto the scene, showing up the helpless officer.
But in America, we saw the emergence of a different type of detective in the hardboiled detective mysteries. In another kind of society, Dashielle Hammett and Raymond Chandler introduced us to the private eye. Often a lone wolf, who tried to dispense his own style of justice in a world with few rules.
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