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  • kristencote

Hiatus Four

Top Five Mystery Stories

This week I had a case to solve: naming and ranking the best mystery short stories in the 52 short lives project. Mysteries work fantastically well in the short story format. In general they aren't so much about character or character development, but solving a puzzle. In a short mystery story the detective as a character might not change much, but they will go on an exciting adventure with a string of clues that will satisfyingly be put together by the end. And that really really works for people.

Detectives aren't the only characters in the mystery genre, there is their best friend and ally of course. And there is the criminal, the antagonist, the rival who can be equally if not more interesting then a law abiding detective. Whether its a story about solving or committing crimes the detectives (and criminals) in these short stories are iconic. The characters in these stories either continue to exist as staples of out pop culture, or have inspired new characters and stories even decades later. Mystery/Crime fiction is one of the most dominant genres in media and those much loved tropes still being used today started in the medium of the short story.

So now that I've put together all the clues here are my Top Five Mystery Short Stories:

5. Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late: This story has so much I love. Firstly the protagonist is an anti-hero, a thief and not a detective. Second it is a Sherlock Holmes crossover (sort of). Third the mystery revolves around a secret passageway, and fourth it involves the invention of the name, for copywrite reasons, the totally undetectable, Herlock Sholmes. I just think everyone in the world needs to know about Herlock Sholmes.

4. The Murder in The Rue Morgue: Edgar Allen Poe makes a hiatus list again! This mystery story had to make the list because well, it sort of invented the detective genre. Augustine Dupin lives a gothic mansion with his BFF and solves a gruesome murder in a story that would spark an entire genre of popular literature. It also has that quintessential Poe darkness and macabre style that I love.

3. The Tuesday Night Club: Written by Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie, and featuring a detective who understands human nature like no other, the old spinster Miss. Marple. This story is the first in a frame narrative/anthology of short stories in which Miss. Marple is continually underestimated and continually the smartest person in any room. The only female detective to make this list, and arguably the most famous female detective in the western cannon the sharp eyed woman from the little village of Saint Mary's Mead just had to make the list. I think everyone should read an Agatha Christie at least once and why not start with a short story?

2. The Ides of March: is the first story in the AJ Raffles amateur cracksman collection of short stories about, again, not a gentleman detective, but a gentleman thief. The pioneer of the trope this story focuses on Raffles assisting an old friend who he cares for very deeply get out of debt-by roping him into a life of crime. I've always loved the gentleman thief/thieves as anti-heroes trope and my post on this story is one of my longest as I dive into and explore why we enjoy thieves as protagonists so much.

1 The Speckled Band alright so it wasn't much a mystery. The Sherlock Holmes mystery made the top of the list. Arthur Conan Doyle was famous for a reason. With a classic locked room puzzle that show cases the famous Watson and Holmes friendship, tense stakes, and and a compelling moral center The Speckled Band stands out as a master class in the short mystery story. As I mention in my post for this one the Sherlock Holmes stories are probably the most famous short stories in the world so it's not mystery this one ended up in the top spot.

Well, there's that case all wrapped up. In the case of all of these stories they feature characters who were serialized, or in other words, who appeared in more than one story. This means there are whole collections of fantastic puzzles and characters just waiting to be cracked open!


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