Of these four kinds of literary and screen entertainments, the detective story is the youngest and most complicated; the most difficult in construction and the most distinct. It may seem, in one sense, to be an offshoot of the mystery novel, but upon closer inspection, this relationship is far more distant than the average reader imagines. In order to understand the uniqueness of the detective story, we must first think like the protagonist detective, him or herself: we must endeavor to determine the peculiar appeal of this genre to all classes of people...
It has been asserted that the answer is that the detective story belongs more to the category of riddles than mysteries: it is, when written well, a complicated and extended puzzle cast in fictional form, and resembles in structure and mechanism the cross-word puzzle. Think about it: in each, there is a problem to be solved, and the solution depends entirely on the mental process of the reader or observer; the analysis and fitting together of apparently unrelated parts, and in some measure, educated guessing. Each is supplied with a series of overlapping clues to guide the solver, and when these clues are snapped firmly into place, a solution may be achieved, and all the little details weave together nicely into a complete, interrelated and closely knitted fabric.
Poe also began the tradition embraced by connoisseurs of crime fiction: "The Rules of the Game."
1. The detective story must play fair (revealing all clues to the reader)
2. The detective story must be readable.
Therefore, the true detective story, according to Poe, is like a game of chess played by the author and reader--an interaction in which clues are cleverly dropped, often in the disguise of underplayed narration, for the astute reader to catch and assemble.
Poe's stories led to the development of such popular characters as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot Law and Order series. Movies have been made, often adding in elements of humor, adventure and sometimes even romance to twist and turn the story even a bit further. But the primary elements of interest remain the same: Crime has always exerted a profound fascination over humanity, and the more serious the crime (a la Criminal Minds or such macabre stories as The Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs from the Hannibal Lecter series) the greater the appeal. Murder, it appears, gives an added zest to the solution of the problem, and seems to render the satisfaction of the solution just so much the greater. The reader or viewer feels no doubt that his/her efforts have achieved something worth while after the amount of mental energy he/she has had to expend.
Below, I have attached links to some of my favorite detectives set in scenes from their series and movies throughout the years. Take a look: I hope you enjoy them, and I hope that you will share which ones you enjoyed the most and then some of your favorites, too! As the great Detective Holmes once said: "My mind rebels at stagnation; give me work! Give me problems!"
I've always loved a good intrigue...and as we begin our study of Poe, I hope you do, too!
Sherlock Holmes #1
Sherlock Holmes #2
Detectives Goren and Eames on Criminal Intent (Law and Order)