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. He is the author of four critical studies of detective fiction for McFarland and recipient of nominations for an Edgar Award and an Agatha Award.

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