‘The stories related in the following pages – unlike many of the so-called stories of detectives – are founded on facts, and are, from first to last, and in all their details, truthful histories of the crimes they purport to describe’
Twenty-Five Years of Detective Life, by Jerome Caminada, 1895.
The more I’ve been investigating the world of Victorian detectives, the more fact and fiction have merged into one. Detective Caminada was typical of many late 19th century police officers who wished to challenge their dull literary image by publishing their own memoirs. However, real-life detectives like him were constantly compared to their fictional counterparts and it seems to be impossible to study them as separate entities. Therefore, I have decided to bring the two worlds together by spending some time studying early detective fiction, and I hope you’ll join me. If nothing else, detective stories are perfect reading for cold, wintry evenings…
During the next few months, I’ll be reading and discussing detective novels from the 19th century, but before that I need to compose a list (I do like a list!). So, what to choose…I’ve read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins a few times, but I don’t recall reading The Moonstone. I’ve devoured all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but it might be worth selecting one here for further study. I’ve read Bleak House at least twice, but always great to re-visit and it’s one of my favourite Dickens novels. I quite like the sound of the female detectives and there’s some interesting-looking French detective fiction to try out, such as The Female Detective by Andrew Forrester. And then there are the Victorian horror stories that always have a brutal murder in there somewhere, like The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Have you read any Victorian detective fiction? If so, please do post your recommendations and add to the list. I’d love to know which is your favourite.
Maybe for the very first book, I should start with Edgar Allan Poe, as The Murders in the Rue Morgue is considered by most to be the very first novel of this genre. If you’d like to read alongside and then share your views, it would be great to hear from you. In the meantime, I’ll start reading and get back to you with my thoughts.