Detective Fiction at Country House Library - 8 Puzzling Detectives

4 min read

Detective Fiction @ Country House Library

For decades now, the thrill of a murder and the restlessness of an unsolved crime have captured the minds of inquisitive readers of crime fiction. From Edgar Allen Poe’s early suspense stories to more modern murder mysteries, many brilliant and eccentric detectives have brought this exciting genre to life.

The Birth of Detective Fiction 

Detective fiction emerged in the mid-nineteenth century with the publication of Poe’s first mystery story, Murder in the Rue Morgue. This publication and the many works that followed, laid out a formula for other detective writers to follow. This included a puzzling crime, an incompetent police force, and naturally a brilliant detective to solve the case. Over the decades, Poe’s ideas were matured by other authors who went on to create some of the world’s most famous literary detectives.

8 Puzzling Detectives at Country House Library

    1. Collecting Sherlock Holmes books at Country House Library

      Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle 

      The famous Sherlock Holmes first appeared in publication in 1887. Conan Doyle modelled his genius detective on the sharp methods and mannerisms of Dr. Joseph Bell, a professor who’d taught him at medical school. Holmes is famous for his astute observational skills and deductive reasoning abilities. He is infallible, esoteric and obsessive, a genius who continually makes those around him guess his next steps.

      vintage arthur conan doyle at country house library →

    2. Vintage Hercule Poirot Books at Country House Library

      Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie

      Agatha Christie’s eccentric Belgian detective first appeared in her debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. He went on to appear in thirty-two more novels, becoming one of the world’s most famous literary detectives. Impeccably dressed and with a moustache almost as famous as himself, Poirot is a notably meticulous detective. Christie presents him as an intelligent and dignified man, renowned the world over for his crime solving abilities and his deep understanding of human psychology. 

      vintage agatha christie at country house library →

    3. Vintage Miss Marple at Country House Library

      Miss Marple, Agatha Christie

      Miss Marple is the only female detective on this list and was never intended as a rival for Poirot. The elderly amateur sleuth first appeared in a magazine publication and didn’t make it into a novel (The Murder at the Vicarage) until 1930. Living in the fictional village of St Mary Mead, Marple embodies the archetypal spinster, unimportant and unnoticed. As such, she is able to quietly observe society and her ability to compare situations with people often leads her towards key solutions.

      vintage agatha christie penguins at country house library →

    4. Vintage Maigret at Country House Library

      Jules Maigret, Georges Simenon

      Sometimes referred to as the Sherlock Holmes of France, Jules Maigret is another brilliant literary detective. Appearing in over eighty novels, Maigret devotes himself to uncovering murderous suspects while working with the Parisian police force. He is an unassuming and compassionate character who relies upon intuition, rather than observation, to close in on his suspects. However, this understanding of his suspect’s motives builds a sympathetic relationship which makes his arrests more challenging. 

      vintage simenon at country house library →

    5. Vintage Allingham at Country House Library

      Albert Campion, Margery Allingham

      In Allingham’s early writings, Albert Campion (a pseudonym) is presented as a wealthy fop. By the mid-1930s however, he begins to mature, revealing a more serious side to his nature. He was supposedly created as a parody of Dorothy L. Sayers gentleman detective, Lord Peter Whimsey. Though a member of the aristocracy, the affable and inoffensive Campion lives an unconventional life as an adventurer and detective. A man of action and authority, his stories take him on many exciting and puzzling adventures.

      vintage margery allingham at country house library →

    6. Vintage Dashiell Hammett at Country House Library

      The Continental Op, Dashiell Hammett

      The Continental Op is named in metonymy after the detective agency he works for. Elusive, dispassionate and a little overweight, his work is defined by a world of excitement and violence. The stories of which he is a part deal with many complex cases and devious characters. Dashiell Hammett is a master of the detective genre, his clean prose and sharp characters bringing his writing to life. Red Harvest in particular is a brilliant, though in some ways horrifying book, in which the mysterious Op becomes a suspect himself.

      vintage dashiell hammett at country house library →

    7. Vintage Raymond Chandler books at Country House Library

      Phillip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler

      Phillip Marlowe is another unforgettable literary detective. He is presented as the archetypal Private Eye, a tall, solid man who finds enjoyment in hard drinking, women and chess. Fired from his former investigative role for insubordination, he becomes a private detective. Filled with loneliness, cynicism, conflict and corruption, the seven stories in which Phillip Marlowe appears are page turners from start to end.

      vintage raymond chandler at country house library →

    8. Vintage Erle Stanley Gardner at Country House Library

      Perry Mason, Erle Stanley Gardner

      To round off this list of brilliant and quirky detectives is Perry Mason, an American trial lawyer and detective. He first appeared in The Case of the Velvet Claws in 1933 and became the protagonist of over eighty mystery novels. Mason’s typical methods lead him to establish a victim’s innocence by finding the real murderer. He is presented as a character who fights hard for his clients and will go the extra mile for them if necessary. 

      vintage erle stanley gardner at country house library →

The Final Puzzle

Detective fiction is still one of the most popular genres and many modern authors have drawn inspiration from the great mystery novels of the past. The question that must be asked however is what makes the protagonists of these famous novels so endlessly appealing?

The detectives described above are complex and mysterious. Readers can never fully understand the complexities of their thoughts and the genius of their methods. The thrill of trying to predict the next moves of protagonists and villains alike perhaps plays a part in this intriguing puzzle.

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