The Supernatural and Fantastic in Short Detective Fiction

A Survey, 1841–2000


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About the Book

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.

About the Author(s)

Laird R. Blackwell is a humanities professor emeritus at Sierra Nevada College in the Lake Tahoe area of western Nevada, where he taught psychology and literature for 31 years.

Bibliographic Details

Laird R. Blackwell
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 214
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8128-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3945-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1

Introduction: Bringing the Fantastic and the Detective Together 5

Part 1. The Apparently Fantastic Shown to Be Natural 15

One. ­Locked-Room Murders and Other Impossible Crimes 17

Two. Other Fantastic Scenarios 57

Three. Superstitions, Prophecies and Curses 74

Four. The Charlatan Occult Detective 84

Part 2. A Touch of the Fantastic 87

Five. The ­Super-Sensitive Detective 89

Six. The Fanciful, the Fabled and the Psychological 102

Part 3. The Truly Supernatural 133

Seven. The Supernatural Experienced or Investigated 135

Eight. The Supernatural Combatted 144

Part 4. Supernatural or Natural? 171

Nine. The Intrigue of Unanswered Questions 173

Conclusion: The Detective, the Rational and the Fantastic 183

Bibliography 187

Index 197