Have you ever wonder who wrote the first mystery novel? I have, and went on a quest to find the culprit who caused me to lose so much writing time. Alas, one cannot read and write at the same time.
Most scholars agree the first detective/mystery was the short story The Murders in the Rue Morgue, by Edgar Allan Poe published in Graham’s Magazine, 1841.
C. Auguste Dupin, the “detective” in this macabre tale is never referred to as a detective. He is merely a citizen who offers his help to the prefect de police. At the risk of censure, I will break a long-standing taboo of mystery reader that you NEVER, NEVER, NEVER reveal who-dun-it, because it robs the reader of the pleasure of solving the crime. I do so only because the killer is humorous by today’s standards. Anyone who can Goggle can find the answer and most reader have seen the movie. The murderer is . . . (drum roll please) . . . an orangutan banishing a straight edge razor, who kills the female victim trying to shave her face. He then strangles the daughter and stuffs her in a chimney. We can only assume the girl didn’t need a shave.
See what I mean about funny?
Even with the comic aspects, Dupin, the first true detective in fiction, became the model for many mystery characters such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. Poe referred to the method Dupin used to solve the crime as “ratiocination.” Dupin states: "the extent of information obtained (at the crime scene) lies not so much in the validity of the inference as in the quality of the observation." Or, as Hercule Poirot would say, “Use the little grey cells.”
Despite the fact that my love of mysteries and those who write them keeps me away from the keyboard, I offer my sincere thanks to Mr. Poe and his orangutan.
The Mystery Writers of America’s coveted Edgar Award was named after this great American writer and poet.
Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)