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The First Detectives in Fiction

In the history of humanity, complexity of solving riddles of big crimes, ordinary felonies and even simple misdemeanors in growing western society has become more difficult with the fast development of large cities of 19th century. This was the time when first detective agencies have been founded, initially in Paris by Eugène François Vidocq, convicted criminal who in his inspirational life switched the side of the law and turned into criminalist career, followed by 'Bow Street Runners', the very first police detective force in London and first detective units in Boston and Chicago with Allan Pinkerton, famous owner of the most memorable private detective agency in the history of United States.

There is no doubt that many actual events from western criminology from the early 19th century heavily influenced first modern detective stories from the time. The very first one in this genre is widely attributed to Edgar Allan Poe and his short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" with first appearance of famous fictitious detective C. Auguste Dupin staged in early 19th century in Paris, France. It was real unique experience for me to read Poe's writing style with long, educative and well resourced magazine-influenced narratives from both author and his characters. Here, within this particular story and two more with Dupin reappearance in following years, it is more than noticeable the birth of the new genre and new wave of readers who would with every new page try to solve the riddle before the last page turned.

However, Poe never went to the length of the novel size in his career and even though Dupin's three short stories left the large birthmark in the genre, the real crown goes almost three decades later to Wilkie Collins and his jewel in the detective fiction, amazing 'The Moonstone', a story considered to be the very first modern detective novel in all aspects we could ask for such a book.

'The Moonstone' is written in epistolary fashion as a series of written journals and documents by characters in the story and I genuinely enjoyed every single page of it. The 19th style of writing, narratives, humor, dialogues, picturesque scenes, astonishing characters and of course the plot that even the best of the fictitious detectives of the time in the face of Sergeant Cuff could not solve that easily, left the strong feeling in me after reading. Not to mention that even though I had many thoughts about the riddle and solution themselves, the final outcome eluded me almost to the very end of the book.

Historically and in every way considered, what was hinted by Poe and established by Collins, it was surely coined by Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous consulting detective. Strongly inspired by Poe's Dupin and about two decades after Sergeant Cuff, Sherlock Holmes was born in Doyle's initial novel 'A Study in Scarlet' with the background of everything in other books explained and by that I mean his friendship with Dr. Watson, the Baker street, Mrs. Hudson...

'A Study in Scarlet' is a remarkable piece of work but it belongs to those realm of detective stories with author almost immediately describing the background of the case in separate thread. Even though it serves great in transforming the novel into motion pictures it leaves little room for reader's little grey cells 'to operate in higher gear' while reading. Still I liked it a lot and unlike Poe and Collins, the writing style was way ahead of the time when it was written and it didn't require some old Victorian fluency of the first half of the 19th century to cope with.

Classics like these for me had an effect of pure refreshment in my reading habits full of 21st century titles and I am really looking forward for more waves of classic novel downloads into my reader. Not to mention that many of those great books come today with price of zero dollars and with same satisfaction.

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