A whodunit or whodunnit (for "Who done it?" and sometimes referred to as a Golden Age Mystery novel) is a complex, plot-driven variety of the detective story in which the puzzle is paramount. Detective fiction is a branch of Crime fiction in which a Detective (or detectives either professional or amateur investigate a crime usually Murder The reader is provided with clues from which the identity of the perpetrator of the crime may be deduced before the solution is revealed in the final pages of the book. The investigation is usually conducted by an eccentric amateur or semi-professional detective. The locked-room mystery is a specialized kind of a whodunit. The locked room mystery is a sub-genre of Detective fiction wherein a crime such as murder is committed under apparently impossible circumstances—typically involving a crime
The whodunit flourished during the so-called "Golden Age" of detective fiction, during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, when it was the predominant mode of crime writing. The Golden Age of Detective Fiction was an era of classic murder mystery novels produced by various authors all following similar patterns and style The 1920s is sometimes referred to as the " Jazz Age " or the " Roaring Twenties " when speaking about the United States and Canada The 1930s were described as an abrupt shift to more radical and conservative lifestyles as countries were struggling to find a solution to the Great Depression. The 1940s decade ran from 1940 to 1949 Events and trends The 1940s was a period between the radical 1930s and the conservative 1950s which also leads the period to be Many of the best writers of whodunits in this period were British -- notably Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Josephine Tey, Michael Innes, Nicholas Blake, Christianna Brand and Edmund Crispin. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK or Britain,is a Sovereign state located Agatha Mary Clarissa Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller; 15 September 1890 &ndash 12 January 1976 commonly known as Agatha Christie, was an English Dorothy Leigh Sayers ( IPA: usually pronounced /ˈseɪɜrz/ although Sayers herself preferred /ˈsɛːz/ and encouraged the use of her middle initial to facilitate this Josephine Tey was one of many Pseudonyms used by Elizabeth Mackintosh ( July 25 1896 &ndash February 13 1952) a Scottish John Innes Mackintosh Stewart ( September 30, 1906 Edinburgh – November 12, 1994 Coulsdon) was a Scottish Cecil Day-Lewis (or Day Lewis) CBE ( 27 April 1904 &ndash 22 May 1972) was an Irish -born Poet Christianna Brand ( December 17, 1907 - March 11, 1988) was an English Crime writer and children's author. Edmund Crispin was the Pseudonym of Robert Bruce Montgomery, (usually credited as Bruce Montgomery) ( October 2 1921 &mdash September Others -- S. S. Van Dine, John Dickson Carr, and Ellery Queen -- were American, but imitated the "English" style. S S Van Dine was the pseudonym of Willard Huntington Wright ( October 15, 1888 - April 11, 1939) a U John Dickson Carr ( November 30, 1906 &ndash February 27, 1977) was an American Author of Detective stories Ellery Queen is both a Fictional character and a Pseudonym used by two American cousins from Brooklyn, New York: Daniel (David Nathan The United States of America —commonly referred to as the Still others, such as Rex Stout, Clayton Rawson, and Earl Derr Biggers, aimed for a more "American" style. Rex Todhunter Stout ( December 1 1886 - October 27 1975) was an American Crime writer, best known as the creator of Clayton Rawson (1906 - 1971 was an American mystery writer editor and amateur magician Earl Derr Biggers ( August 24, 1884 - April 5, 1933) was an American novelist and playwright
Over time, certain conventions and clichés developed that limited any surprises on the part of the reader to the twists and turns within the plot and of course to the identity of the murderer. Several authors excelled, after successfully leading their readers on the wrong track, in convincingly revealing to them the least likely suspect as the real villain of the story. What is more, they had a predilection for certain casts of characters and settings, with the secluded English country house at the top of the list. The English country house is generally accepted as a large House or Mansion, once in the ownership of an individual who also usually owned another Great
A U. S. reaction to the cozy conventionality of British murder mysteries was the American hard-boiled school of crime writing of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Mickey Spillane, among others. Hardboiled Crime fiction is a literary style pioneered by Carroll John Daly in the mid-1920s popularized by Dashiell Hammett over the course of the Raymond Thornton Chandler ( July 23, 1888 &ndash March 26, 1959) was an American Author of crime stories and novels Samuel Dashiell Hammett ( May 27, 1894 — January 10, 1961) was an American Author of Hardboiled detective Frank Morrison Spillane ( March 9 1918 – July 17 2006) better known as Mickey Spillane, was an American author of
Finally, recent additions to the subgenre of the whodunit include the novels of Simon Brett, the Thackery Phin novels of John Sladek, Lawrence Block's The Burglar in the Library (1997), which is a spoof set in the present in an English-style country house, Kinky Friedman's Road Kill (1997), Ben Elton's Dead Famous (2001), and Gilbert Adair's The Act of Roger Murgatroyd (2006). Simon Brett (born 28 October 1945 in Worcester Park, Surrey, England) is a prolific writer of Whodunnits Brett worked for BBC Radio John Thomas Sladek ( December 15, 1937 &ndash March 10, 2000) was an American Science fiction author known for his Lawrence Block (born June 24, 1938) is an acclaimed contemporary American crime writer best known for two long-running New York -set series about Year 1997 ( MCMXCVII) was a Common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full 1997 Gregorian calendar A parody (ˈpɛɹədiː US, [ˈpaɹədiː] UK) in contemporary usage is a work created to mock comment on or poke fun at an original work its subject The English country house is generally accepted as a large House or Mansion, once in the ownership of an individual who also usually owned another Great Richard S "Kinky" Friedman (born October 31 or November 1 1944 is an American Singer, Songwriter, Novelist, Humorist, Road Kill is a pair of live albums released by Celtic rock band Seven Nations in 1998 Year 1997 ( MCMXCVII) was a Common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full 1997 Gregorian calendar Benjamin Charles Elton (born 3 May 1959 is an English Comedian, writer and director. Year 2001 ( MMI) was a Common year starting on Monday according to the Gregorian calendar. Gilbert Adair (born December 29, 1944 in Edinburgh) is a Scottish Author, Film critic and Journalist. The Act of Roger Murgatroyd An Entertainment is a Whodunit by Gilbert Adair first published in 2006. Year 2006 ( MMVI) was a Common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar.
An important variation on the whodunit is the inverted detective story (also referred to as a "howcatchem" or "howdunnit") where the guilty party and the crime are openly revealed to the reader/audience and the story follows the investigator's efforts to find out the truth while the criminal attempts to prevent it. An inverted detective story, also known as a "howcatchem", is a Murder Mystery fiction structure in which the commission of the crime is shown The Columbo TV movie series is the classic example of this kind of detective story (Law & Order: Criminal Intent also fits into this genre). Law & Order Criminal Intent is an American Television series set in New York City. This tradition dates back to the inverted detective stories of R Austin Freeman, and reached an apotheosis of sorts in Malice Aforethought written by Francis Iles (a pseudonym of Anthony Berkeley). R(ichard Austin Freeman ( April 11, 1862 London - September 28, 1943 Gravesend) was a British writer of Specifically in the Criminal law, malice aforethought (or malice prepense) is the element of Mens rea ( Latin for "guilty Anthony Berkeley Cox ( July 5, 1893 – March 9, 1971) was an English Crime writer. Anthony Berkeley Cox ( July 5, 1893 – March 9, 1971) was an English Crime writer. In the same vein is Iles's Before the Fact (1932), which became the Hitchcock movie Suspicion. Before the Fact ( 1932) is a novel by Anthony Berkeley writing under the Pen name "Francis Iles" Year 1932 ( MCMXXXII) was a Leap year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE (13 Successors of the psychological suspense novel include Patricia Highsmith's This Sweet Sickness, 1960, Simon Brett's A Shock to the System, 1984 and Stephen Dobyns's The Church of Dead Girls, 1997. Patricia Highsmith ( January 19, 1921 - February 4, 1995) was an American Novelist known for her Psychological thrillers This Sweet Sickness is a 1961 novel by Patricia Highsmith about a young man who is obsessed with his ex-lover Year 1960 ( MCMLX) was a Leap year starting on Friday (link will display full calendar of the Gregorian calendar. Simon Brett (born 28 October 1945 in Worcester Park, Surrey, England) is a prolific writer of Whodunnits Brett worked for BBC Radio A Shock to the System is a Novel by British Author Simon Brett, first published in 1984. Year 1984 ( MCMLXXXIV) was a Leap year starting on Sunday (link displays the 1984 Gregorian calendar) Stephen J Dobyns (born February 19, 1941) is an American Poet and Novelist born in Orange New Jersey, and residing in Year 1997 ( MCMXCVII) was a Common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full 1997 Gregorian calendar
In addition to standard humor, parody, spoof, and pastiche have had a long tradition within the field of crime fiction. A parody (ˈpɛɹədiː US, [ˈpaɹədiː] UK) in contemporary usage is a work created to mock comment on or poke fun at an original work its subject A parody (ˈpɛɹədiː US, [ˈpaɹədiː] UK) in contemporary usage is a work created to mock comment on or poke fun at an original work its subject The word pastiche describes a literary or other artistic Genre. (A pastiche is a piece of writing in which the style is patterned completely upon the original work and no parody or ridicule is involved. Examples are the Sherlock Holmes stories written by John Dickson Carr and Adrian Conan Doyle, and hundreds of similar works by such authors as E. B. Greenwood. ) As for parody, the first Sherlock Holmes spoofs appeared shortly after Conan Doyle published his first stories. Sherlock Holmes is a famous fictional detective of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who first appeared in Publication in 1887 A parody (ˈpɛɹədiː US, [ˈpaɹədiː] UK) in contemporary usage is a work created to mock comment on or poke fun at an original work its subject Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, DL (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930 was an Anglo-Scottish Author most noted for his stories about the Similarly, there have been innumerable Agatha Christie send-ups. The idea is to exaggerate and mock the most noticeable features of the original and, by doing so, amuse especially those readers who are also familiar with that original.
One of the earliest parodies of the whodunit genre in general is Englishman E.C. Bentley's (1875 - 1956) novel Trent's Last Case (1913), which introduced Philip Trent, a detective who gets everything wrong right from the start: Assigned to investigate the murder of English millionaire Sigsbee Manderson, who is found shot in the library of his country house, Trent makes his first major mistake when he falls head over heels in love with the main suspect. E C Bentley ( July 10, 1875 &ndash March 30, 1956) was a popular English novelist and humorist of the early twentieth century Year 1875 ( MDCCCLXXV) was a Common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar of the Gregorian calendar (or a Common Year 1956 ( MCMLVI) was a Leap year starting on Sunday (link will display full calendar of the Gregorian calendar. Trent's Last Case is a detective novel written by E C Bentley and first published in 1913. Year 1913 ( MCMXIII) was a Common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar of the Gregorian calendar (or a Common In the course of his investigation he jumps at the wrong clues, in his reasoning he carefully eliminates the wrong suspects, and finally he arrives at a conclusion concerning the identity of Manderson's murderer which turns out to be completely wrong (though Trent is not presented as a bumbler at all). At the end of the novel, the real perpetrator casually informs him during dinner that he/she has shot Manderson. These are Trent's final words to the murderer:
A more recent example of a spoof, which at the same time shows that the borderline between "serious" mystery (if there is any such thing) and its parody is necessarily blurred, is U. S. mystery writer Lawrence Block's (born 1938) novel The Burglar in the Library (1997). Lawrence Block (born June 24, 1938) is an acclaimed contemporary American crime writer best known for two long-running New York -set series about Year 1938 ( MCMXXXVIII) was a Common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar of the Gregorian calendar. Year 1997 ( MCMXCVII) was a Common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full 1997 Gregorian calendar The burglar of the title is Bernie Rhodenbarr, who has booked a weekend at an English-style country house just to steal a signed, and therefore very valuable, first edition of Chandler's The Big Sleep, which he knows has been sitting there on one of the shelves for more than half a century. Raymond Thornton Chandler ( July 23, 1888 &ndash March 26, 1959) was an American Author of crime stories and novels The Big Sleep is a 1939 novel by Raymond Chandler, with two film versions one filmed in 1945, and another filmed in 1978. Alas, immediately after his arrival a dead body turns up in the library, the room is sealed off, and Rhodenbarr has to track down the murderer before he can enter the library again and start hunting for the precious book.
Murder by Death is Neil Simon's spoof of many of the best-known whodunit sleuths. Murder by Death is a comedy movie written by Neil Simon and directed by Robert Moore. Marvin Neil Simon (born July 4, 1927 in The Bronx, New York City) is an American Playwright and Screenwriter In the 1976 film, Sam Spade (from The Maltese Falcon) becomes Sam Diamond, Hercule Poirot becomes Milo Perrier, etc. Sam Spade is a Fictional character who is the Protagonist of Dashiell Hammett 's novel The Maltese Falcon The Maltese Falcon is a 1930 Detective novel by Dashiell Hammett, originally serialized in the magazine " Black Mask " The film makes particular fun of the relationship between each detective and his or her sidekick. SideKick was an early Personal Information Manager (PIM Software application by Borland launched in 1983 under Philippe Kahn The characters are all gathered in a large country house, given meaningless clues, and all of them fail to solve the mystery.
Another example is the Lord Darcy stories by Randall Garrett. Randall Garrett ( December 16, 1927 - December 31, 1987) was an American Science fiction and Fantasy author Despite their fantasy fiction setting, they are "straight" whodunits. Fantasy is a Genre that uses magic and other Supernatural forms as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting However, the names of many of the supporting characters are puns, suggesting Garrett's friends, or the lead characters in other detective stories. A pun (or paronomasia) is a Phrase that deliberately exploits confusion between similar-sounding Words for humorous or Rhetorical Often, the personality of the character also reflects this.
In the video game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion there is a quest for the Dark Brotherhood titled "Whodunit", which involves murdering five people in a locked house.