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The power of logic in a detective story: what you need to know about the genre

One can hardly find a reader who has never found himself wholly and entirely carried away by a detective novel and did not stay too late with the book because putting it aside would mean dooming yourself to an unknown ending. Detectives distract us and entertain us. No matter how cruel the crime, we always remember that the perpetrator will be punished. Unlike reality, detectives have laws and logic, and book crimes have meaning. And this gives us support, a sense of stability, and the ability to briefly abandon the thought of how it would all look if it happened. The main goal of the detective novel is to captivate and entertain the reader, who is very likely to open the book in the subway on the way to work and from work, on the plane, train or on vacation, because these are the very time intervals that he can afford to fill with reading. Grabbing, arousing curiosity, holding attention and not letting go until the very end is what the detectives do with us, but is this their only task, or, perhaps, they are also food for the mind? The answer to this question can be found in books where the main character clicks riddles like nuts because she is in love with detective novels.

The detective genre arises where there is justice: guilt and its evidence, followed by the inevitability of punishment. For the first time, the detective's tricks appear already in ancient texts: in the old Egyptian fairy tale "Truth and Falsehood". It tells about a man who convicted a criminal and judges of injustice against his father, who was sentenced to blinding, in the tragedy of Sophocles "Oedipus Rex" Oedipus investigates to find the killer of his predecessor, King Lai. In the "Tale of Three Apples" from "A Thousand and One Nights," a dismembered woman is found in the chest, and the vizier Jafar ibn Yahya, on behalf of the caliph, must find the killer in three days.

The forerunners of the detective novel in the form we know are the Notes by Eugene Widock (1828) and the story The Murder on Morgue Street by Edgar Allan Poe. The story where the amateur detective Dupin first appears and acts, who became the prototype of a whole string of bright and memorable characters, including Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan-Doyle), Father Brown (Gilbert Chesterton), Lecoq (Emil Gaborio) and Mr. Cuff (Wilkie Collins). The detective authors also use a motive for the rivalry between the private investigator and the official police. The golden age of the England detective is from 1930 to 1970 - the publication of the novels by Agatha Christie and other authors who influenced the genre. The term "detective" itself (from detego - expose) belongs to the writer Anna Catherine Green (1846-1935), who was well versed in the intricacies of conducting investigations because she was the daughter of a lawyer.

Before the revolution, stories about robbers and detectives were popular in Russia. One of them is the autobiography of the Moscow thief and detective Ivan Osipov, nicknamed Cain, published under the title "Life and adventures of the Russian Cartouche, called Cain, a famous fraudster and that craft of the detective's people." There are examples among the classics: the story "The Bitter Fate" by M. D. Chulkov is the first example of the detective genre in Russian literature. The short novel by E. Baratynsky, the short story by M. N. Zagoskin "The White Ghost". In the novels of F. M. Dostoevsky "Crime and Punishment" and "The Brothers Karamazov," a clear detective line is also traced.

Despite the wide variety of books in the detective genre, they somehow share common features, based on which we distinguish them in the genre group. The main criterion defining the detective as a genre is the presence of a mysterious incident, the real circumstances of which are not communicated to the reader until the moment of denouement. They are unknown and need to be clarified. Like any genre literature, a detective novel is reasonably standardized. It involves stereotypical images of characters, specific methods of describing a place, and action, a general plot scheme. In other words, a formula filled with individuality using the author's style and rethinking - compare, for example, Tana's detectives French, Stig Larsson, and Yu Nesby.

A detective story is a relatively young genre; we can distinguish many subgenres. However, it's somewhat arbitrary, since they are often combined in one text in a wide variety of combinations if the author likes it, and this meets his idea.

- A gothic detective with all the signs of a gothic novel that we talked about earlier. Nevertheless, all supposedly mystical events here acquire a genuine explanation (Diane Setterfield, "Thirteenth Tale", Nancy Holder, "Crimson Peak");

- A scientific detective, in which specialized knowledge leads to a solution (Caleb Carr, "Alienist");

- Police detective, where the investigation is conducted by a representative of the law (novels by Tana French);

- Spy detective (B. Akunin, "Spy novel", Agatha Christie, "Baghdad meeting", A. Perez-Reverte, "Falco");

- Fantastic detective (novels by Dan Brown, S. Lukyanenko, "Quasi", A. Azimov "I, Robot", Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, "Vita Nostra");

- A political detective based on an investigation of political crimes (B. Pierce, "Before He Kills," W. Eco, "Foucault Pendulum," Jorn Lier Horst, "Closed for the Winter," E. Topol, "Kremlin Wife")

The detective line can be introduced into the plots of books of other genres as another new layer that sets the intrigue and attracts the attention of the reader with its secret, as Donna Tartt does. However, her novels cannot be called detective in the traditional sense. A parent who disappeared under strange circumstances, a long-unsolved crime, even an investigation of suicide, leading to a rethinking of the whole family history and himself including. All this can become one of the pillars on which the novel rests, or an event that triggers a chain of incidents.

With what techniques can we create a detective line and fit it into our plot, regardless of genre?

1. Found or not found, identified or nameless, fresh or almost forgotten by all, but you will need a corpse;

2. Consider hints and tips that will equalize the chances of the reader and detective to reach the goal at the same time. Perhaps the reader will even get ahead of the hero in the solution;

3. A detective cannot be a criminal;

4. The criminal must be calculated using logic, even if you describe a world where trust in sorcerers and shamans is much higher than in your mind. Hints of psychics, witches, crystal balls and bird bones - do not count;

5. The culprit is an important hero of the story. A secondary character that is not interesting to anyone, including the author, cannot be a killer - this is a game of giveaways. The criminal should be alone, and they are driven by personal motives that are understandable to the reader.

Adhering to the canon is necessary, the main thing is to avoid tricks that have been reused often and have become genre cliches. Follow your plot plan, know in advance who the killer is, and, most importantly - who the victim is and why you killed her. The investigation begins!


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