Although fantasy and supernatural literature have long and celebrated histories, many critics contend that the fantastic and the supernatural have no place in the logical, rational, world of the detective story. This book is the first extensive study of the fantastic in detective fiction and it explores the highly debated question of whether detective fiction and the fantastic can comfortably coexist.
The “locked room” mystery—which often uses the fantastic as a red herring to eventually be debunked by reason and logic—has long been among the most popular subgenres of detective fiction. This book also explores stories featuring almost supernaturally gifted detectives, stories where the supernatural is truly encountered, and stories with ambiguous endings.
Close to 500 detective stories from 1841 to 2000, in which the fantastic or supernatural plays a central role, are discussed and analyzed. Although not all the stories are judged to be successful as detective tales, in the great majority, the fantastic enlivens the tale and deepens the mystery without weakening the detective elements.