Towards Sherlock Holmes

A Thematic History of Crime Fiction in the 19th Century World

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SKU: 9781476666167 Categories: , , , ,

About the Book

Crime fiction—a product of the burgeoning metropolis of the 19th century—features specialists who identify criminals to protect an anxious citizenry. Before detectives came to play the central role, the protagonists tended to be lawyers or other professionals. Major English writers like Gaskell, Dickens and Collins contributed to the genre—Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab was a best-seller in 1887—and American and French authors created new forms. This book explores thematic aspects of 19th century crime fiction’s complex history, including various social and gender roles between different time periods and settings, and the imperial elements that made Sherlock Holmes seem dynamically contemporary.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Knight is a well-known authority on crime fiction and literature through the ages. He has worked at universities in Australia, England and Wales and is a research professor in literature at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Bibliographic Details

Stephen Knight
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 236
Bibliographic Info: 18 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6616-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2751-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Preface 1

Introduction 5

1. Before the Tough Guys: The Traditions of 19th-Century American Crime Fiction 13

2. Sherlock Holmes’ Grandmother: French Contributions to the Formation of Crime Fiction 45

3. Ferret at Work: Class and Detection in Early English Crime Fiction 72

4. “Jonathan Wild in Petticoats”: Women Detectives in Victorian England 99

5. Major Authors, No Major Detectives: The Response of Mainstream Novelists to Emergent Crime Fiction 127

6. Why Did Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab Move So Fast? 157

7. Watson’s Wound and the Speckled Band: Imperial Threats and English Crimes in Conan Doyle’s Fiction 182

Chapter Notes 207

Bibliography 217

Index 225

Book Reviews & Awards

“an inherently fascinating literary study, impressively informative and a seminal work of outstanding scholarship…recommended”—Midwest Book Review.