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mystery novels

Mystery fiction is a loosely-defined term that is often used as a synonym of detective fiction — in other words a novel or short story in which a detective (either professional or amateur) solves a crime. The term "mystery fiction" may sometimes be limited to the subset of detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle element and its logical solution (cf. whodunit), as a contrast to hardboiled detective stories which focus on action and gritty realism. However, in more general usage "mystery" may be used to describe any form of crime fiction, even if there is no mystery to be solved. For example, the Mystery Writers of America describes itself as "the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre".[1]

Although normally associated with the crime genre, the term "mystery fiction" may in certain situations refer to a completely different genre, where the focus is on supernatural mystery (even if no crime is involved). This usage was common in the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, where titles such as Dime Mystery, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Mystery offered what at the time were described as "weird menace" stories – supernatural horror in the vein of Grand Guignol. This contrasted with parallel titles such as Dime Detective, Thrilling Detective and Spicy Detective, which contained conventional hardboiled crime fiction. The first use of "mystery" in this sense was by Dime Mystery, which started out as an ordinary crime fiction magazine but switched to "weird menace" during the latter part of 1933.[2]

The earliest known murder mystery[3] and suspense thriller with multiple plot twists[4] and detective fiction elements[5] was "The Three Apples", or in Arabic, Hikayat al-sabiyya 'l-muqtula ("The Tale of the Murdered Young Woman"),[6] one of the tales narrated by Scheherazade in the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights). In this tale, a fisherman discovers a heavy locked chest along the Tigris river and he sells it to the Abbasid Caliph, Harun al-Rashid, who then has the chest broken open only to find inside it the dead body of a young woman who was cut into pieces. Harun orders his vizier, Ja'far ibn Yahya, to solve the crime and find the murdererer. This whodunit mystery may be considered an archetype for detective fiction.[7][8]

Modern mystery fiction is generally thought to begin with The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe (1841), followed by The Woman in White (1860) by Wilkie Collins. Collins wrote several more in this genre, including The Moonstone (1868) which is thought to be his masterpiece. The genre began to expand near the turn of century with the development of dime novels and pulp magazines. Books were especially helpful to the genre with many authors writing in the genre in the 1920s. An important contribution to mystery fiction in the 1920s was the development of the juvenile mystery by Edward Stratemeyer. Stratemeyer originally developed and wrote the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries written under the Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene pseudonyms, respectively (and later written by his daughter, Harriet S. Adams, and other authors). The 1920s also gave rise to one of the most popular mystery authors of all time, Agatha Christie.


The article above is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Mystery fiction".