April 20 - Happy Detective Story Day!

Posted on April 20, 2022

This is an update of my post published on April 20, 2011:

This is 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 many compelling but fictional private eyes, amateur sleuths, and police detectives. Here are a few: Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey, Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, and Tony Hillerman's Jim Chee, plus younger detectives especially meant for younger readers, such as Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, and Nate the Great.

Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are (fictional)
Navajo tribal police officers who are
clever detectives.

Many detective stories and novels have been translated to movie or television screens, and original shows have been written with detective work as the main theme. These include Veronica Mars, Psych, Frankie Drake Mysteries, and Magnum, P.I.

Veronica Mars

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, or dip into a “Golden Age” author like Christie, or opt for a modern take on detective fiction like the latest episode of Magnum, you are sure to enjoy a good detective story!

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