Here in the Reading Room you will find free Detective, Crime, and Murder Mystery stories. Some are prototypes (such as the stories about Daniel from the Apocrypha). Others are other detectives from the great age of Detective Stories (including Father Brown, Sherlock Holmes, The Old Man in the Corner, The Thinking Machine, Max Carrados, and others). You may already be familiar with some of them, but I hope to introduce you to some that may well be new to you.
So get a nice hot cuppa (translation: get a cup of hot tea!), come and sit near the glowing embers of the fireplace (or the glowing computer screen!), and enjoy yourself!
The story from the Bible's Apocrypha features Daniel as a prototype of the classic detective. Compare this story with the Sherlock Holmes story "The Golden Pince-Nez."
Another story from the Bible's Apocrypha that features Daniel. Daniel's approach to interviewing suspects is standard today, as seen in Meyer Levin's novel Compulsion (also made into a film starring Orson Welles and Dean Stockwell). The French film Z also shows the influence of this approach.
Zadig was created by Voltaire, the French philosopher whom Ellery Queen called "The Great-Grandfather of the Detective Story." Here is a discourse by Thomas Henry Huxley which undoubtedly comes nearer Voltaire's account than does my paraphrase on the Home page.
Edgar Allan Poe's detective Dupin started itall! And this is the story that started it all -- the very first detective story! This is the template that Arthur Conan Doyle followed when he created Sherlock Holmes. It introduces the amateur, eccentric detective. It's a locked room mystery and has so many elements that have become standard that I don't want to spoil it for you by telling you. So read it and enjoy!
The Thinking Machine, Professor S. F. X. Van Dusen, is dedicated to the "blunt proposition" that two and two make four, notsome of the time, but all of the time. (Except in rare cases where they may equal three or five, that is.) In this, one of the most anthologized stories of all time, The Thinking Machine is challenged to escape from a maximum security prison cell by thinking his way out of it.
"Detection in reverse." Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law created Raffles, to Doyle's chagrin. The reading public were uncomfortable with a criminal as a protagonist and implored Hornung to reform Raffles, but it was years before he did so. In spite of this, some Sherlockians point out that Doyle may well have been influenced by the stories, for it was only after Raffles that Holmes and Watson committed criminal trespass on the estate of Charles Augustus Milverton.
The first Father Brown detective story. Ellery Queen called Father Brown one of the three immortal detectives in fiction. (For Queen, the other two are Sherlock Holmes and Dupin.)
Father Brown solves the case of a victim who is murdered while under the watchful eye of police, who surround his house in an effort to protect him. How did the murderer get past the police? And how is it that no one saw him? (Note: Nigel Bruce, as Dr. Watson, mentioned this story in the film The Scarlet Claw, which starred Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes.)
A rare coin may be counterfeit. The man in possession of the coin must know whether it is real or lose an important transaction. The matter is urgent, for if the coin is not proven authentic immediately, its owner will lose out -- he cannot wait even a day to seek an expert opinion. Only Max Carrados, fiction's first blind detective, can see what others don't.
Compare Holmes's investigative technique with that of Daniel in "Bel and the Dragon."
Ellery Queen wrote about Prince Zaleski in favorable terms. But, though I long pursued seeking them out, it was only recently that I came across them. Here's the first.
Journalist Polly Burton would visit the old man who sat in the corner of a tea shop to seek his wisdom on certain crimes that were in the news. He would sit in the corner, raveling and unraveling bits of string, and often would explain to her why the police were wrong and what the correct solution to the mystery was. A good early example of the armchair detective by the author of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
If you have not yet met Uncle Abner, you're in for a treat.
It's time to share with you a story that falls into the realm of "Sherlock Holmes Apocrypha." This story that is not part of the Sherlock Holmes canon (the fifty-six short stories and four novels that specifically identify Sherlock Holmes as the detective).
Martin Hewitt, as an investigator, has been compared favorably with Sherlock Holmes.
Dr. John Evelyn Thorndyke was unique in the annals of crime fiction. R. Austin Freeman took an entirely different approach to writing crime and detective fiction than did other writers of his time. This is clear from his preface to John Thorndyke's Cases, in which he writes: "The stories in this collection, inasmuch as they constitute a somewhat new departure in this class of literature, require a few words of introduction. The primary function of all fiction is to furnish entertainment to the reader, and this fact has not been lost sight of. But the interest of so-called 'detective' fiction is, I believe, greatly enhanced by a careful adherence to the probable, and a strict avoidance of physical impossibilities; and, in accordance with this belief, I have been scrupulous in confining myself to authentic facts and practicable methods. The stories have, for the most part, a medico-legal motive, and the methods of solution described in them are similar to those employed in actual practice by medical jurists. The stories illustrate, in fact, the application to the detection of crime of the ordinary methods of scientific research. I may add that the experiments described have in all cases been performed by me, and that the micro-photographs are, of course, from the actual specimens."
When you get a chance, compare this mystery to the following two Sherlock Holmes stories by Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band, and The Copper Beeches. You'll find a similar motive and some things in common among all three stories, although this is not a Holmes story.
The Case of Oscar Brodski is a landmark in detective story fiction. Historians of detective, crime, and murder mystery fiction label it an "inverted" story -- a story in which the reader witnesses everything before the detective comes on the scene. Freeman wrote, "Would it be possible to write a detective story in which from the outsetthe reader was taken entirely into the author's confidence, was made anactual witness of the crime and furnished with every fact that couldpossibly be used in its detection? Would there be any story left when thereader had all the facts? I believed that there would; and as anexperiment to test the justice of my belief, I wrote "The Case of OscarBrodski." Here the usual conditions are reversed; the reader knowseverything, the detective knows nothing, and the interest focuses on theunexpected significance of trivial circumstances.
"By excellent judges on both sides of the Atlantic — including the editorof 'Pearson's Magazine' — this story was so far approved of that I wasinvited to produce others of the same type." (R. Austin Freeman, original preface to the short story collection The Singing Bone.)