Friday, February 8, 2013

Eveloution of the Mystery Genre

                                   Daphne du Maurier

While working as the companion to a rich American woman, the narrator becomes acquainted with a wealthy Englishman, a 40-something widower. After a short courtship, she agrees to marry him and accompanies him to his mansion, the beautiful estate, Manderley.

The housekeeper was profoundly devoted to the first wife, Rebecca, and she continually attempts to undermine the new wife psychologically, subtly suggesting that she will never attain the charm of her predecessor. The new wife soon becomes convinced that her husband is still deeply in love with the seemingly perfect Rebecca.

The climax occurs at Manderley's annual costume ball. The housekeeper manipulates the protagonist into wearing a replica of the dress shown in a portrait of one of the former inhabitants of the estate—the same costume worn by Rebecca to much acclaim shortly before her death. When her husband see the dress, he gets very angry at her and orders her to change.

Shortly after the ball, the housekeeper reveals her contempt for the heroine by encouraging her to commit suicide by jumping out the window. However the woman is thwarted at the last moment by the disturbance caused by a nearby shipwreck. A diver investigating a ship wreck discovers Rebecca's remains in the boat.

Her husband confesses to the heroine how his marriage to Rebecca was nothing but a sham. Rebecca was a cruel and selfish woman who manipulated everyone around her. She taunted her husband with sordid tales of her numerous love affairs and suggested that she was pregnant with another man's child, which she would raise under the pretense that it was his and he would be powerless to stop her. She intentionally provoked him into fatally shooting her. The heroine is relieved to hear he had never loved Rebecca, but really loves her.

Rebecca's boat is raised and they discover it was deliberately sunk. An inquest brings a verdict of suicide, however, Rebecca's first cousin (and, implicitly her lover) attempts to blackmail Maxim, claiming to have proof that Rebecca could not have intended suicide.

Rebecca’s doctor declares she had been suffering from cancer and would have died within a few months, and that she wasn’t pregant. The suscide verdict is upheld. The husband returns to Manderley to find it in flames. The conclusion reveals the couple now live in foreign exile. The events recounted in the book are in essence a memoir of the heroine’s life at Manderley.

Fiction Novels

• The Loving Spirit (1931)
• I'll Never Be Young Again (1932)
• The Progress of Julius (1933) (later re-published as Julius)
• Jamaica Inn (1936)
• Rebecca (1938)
• Frenchman's Creek (1941)
• Hungry Hill (1943)
• The King's General (1946)
• The Parasites (1949)
• My Cousin Rachel (1951)
• Mary Anne (1954)
• The Scapegoat (1957)
• Castle Dor (1961) (with Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch)
• The Birds and Other Stories (1963)
• The Glass-Blowers (1963)
• The House on the Strand (1969)
• Rule Britannia (1972)

Dame Daphne du Maurier
(13 May 1907 – 19 April 1989)

Daphne du Maurier was born in London, the second of three daughters of the promient actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier
and actress Muriel Beaumont

The novel Rebecca, which has been adapted for stage and screen several times, is generally regarded as her masterpiece. In the U.S.she won the National Book Award for favourite novel of 1938, voted by members of the American Booksellers Association, and it ranks #9 on the Top 100 Best Mystery Novels of all Times by the Mystery Writers of America.

Many of her works have been adapted into films, including the novels Rebecca (which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1941) and Jamaica Inn and the short stories The Birds and Don't Look Now. The first three were directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the latter by Nicolas Roeg.


  1. Daphne du Maurier is one of my favorite authors, but Jamaica Inn was my favorite book. Like most of her plots, the least likely suspect turned out to be the villian. In my WIP, which is more western than mystery, I use this technique, Where would we be without these great authors to pave the way?

    1. I haven't yet read Jamacia Inn but its on my "to read" list. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Virginia, thank you for these interesting posts. I enjoy older books like these and it is helpful fodder for my reading pile. Keep it coming. Have you read Norah Lofts's mystery stories or books. They are excellent. Based on your interests, you will like them a lot. Susan Karsten

    1. Thanks for commenting, Susan. I haven't tried Norah Loft yet, but I'll check her out. I've discovered a number of authors I love in doing this series.