April 20, 2011- Happy Detective Story Day!

This as the anniversary of the April 20, 1841, publication of what many people cite as the first detective story, Edgar Allan Poe's “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

Poe created the original expert sleuth, C. Auguste Dupin, who could solve a crime that the police couldn't solve. Dupin was able to distance himself from the gruesome violence of the crime and use keen his observation and reasoning skills to discover clues and figure out the murderer.

Since Poe's introduction of Dupin, the world has met Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey, Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, and Tony Hillerman's Jim Chee—to name just a very few—plus detectives meant for younger readers, such as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Many detective stories have been translated to movie or television screens, and original shows have been written with detective work as the main theme. These include Murder, She Wrote, Veronica Mars, Psych, and The Mentalist. One of my current favorite TV series featuring a police detective is Castle.

Detective stories are often murder mysteries, and authors often write them in the “whodunit” style, in which readers or viewers are given all the clues necessary to figure out the puzzle. We don't necessarily have to have the observational skills of Sherlock Holmes or Shawn Spencer from Psych to notice clues—they are usually explicitly called to our attention—but actually putting our gray matter to work to solve the crime is another matter altogether. Agatha Christie, particularly, wrote super clever murder mysteries that are tricky to solve.

Celebrate today by reading or watching a good detective story. Whether you go back to the original, Poe, dip into a “Golden Age” author like Christie, or opt for a modern take on detective fiction like the latest episode of Castle, you are sure to enjoy a good detective story!

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