Tag Archives: detective fiction

The Onyx Unicorn (I)

“The phantasy, then, which the detective story addict indulges in is the phantasy of being restored to the Garden of Eden, to a state of innocence, where he may know love as love and not as the law.  The driving force behind this daydream is the feeling of guilt, the cause of which is unknown to the dreamer.”– W. H. Auden

Or, as P. D. James put it, the detective story is not about murder, “but the restoration of order.”  As I’ve mentioned in this space before, I love the Sherlock Holmes stories and the Lord Peter Wimsey novels–I’ve read them all many times.  Likewise, the novels of Agatha Christie and Rex Stout.  They are all what is often called “classical” detective fiction, that is, they depict the crime, the clues, the resolution and the denouement, where the hero explains what happened.  They differ in what I call “the scenery”: the surroundings in which they take place, and the flourishes attributed to the characters.  Christie’s work, for instance, might be called “provincial” because her stories usually take place in small, self-contained communities (including trains and ships) and the characters are limited to suspects and those who represent the norms of her “village.”  Stout’s Nero Wolfe also operates in a small space, despite the fact that most of his tales take place in New York City. Continue reading