Detective novel

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The detective story (short crime ) is a genre of literature . Even if the origins of the detective novel go back further, it did not establish itself as a literary genre until the 19th century. It usually addresses a crime and its prosecution and investigation by the police , a detective or a private person. The focus, point of view and narrative style of individual crime novels can differ considerably. The genre is now divided into numerous sub-genres and has considerable commercial importance in the publishing business.

Traditionally, crime fiction was seen in the literary world as low-valued trivial literature that was written for a broad and less demanding reading public. The possibilities of describing psychological moments that drive the criminal, to provide descriptions of the milieu or to throw the investigator into distress of his own conscience, were repeatedly processed in a literarily demanding manner. Thus, Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment or Wilhelm Raabe Tubby be understood as a crime novel. Even Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Theodor Fontane ( Under the Pear Tree ) wrote literary demanding detective novels.

The detective novel has now become a recognized genre for which numerous literary prizes are awarded. In America these include the Edgar Allan Poe Award , Shamus Award and Anthony Award , in Great Britain the CWA Dagger Awards , in France the Grand prix de littérature policière , in Germany the Deutsche Krimi Preis and the Glauser , in Scandinavia the Glasnyckel (Swedish for Glass key), in Australia the Ned Kelly Award .

History of the genre

Origins of the crime story

Stories and accounts of crime have always fascinated people. The subject of guilt and its atonement and also the question of the causes of evil in humans have been fundamental archetypes at least since the story of Cain and Abel .

The first successful attempt in modern times to objectively describe a criminal case was made by Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805) with his story " The Criminal From Lost Honor " (1786). Based on a true story, Schiller tells how a person becomes a criminal. Also decisive for Schiller were the works of the French lawyer François Gayot de Pitaval (1673–1743), who between 1734 and 1743 published a collection of twenty-two books under the title “Causes célèbres et intéressantes”, in which he published interesting, also sensational legal cases made understandable for the general public. What mattered to him was the background to the crime and, above all, the psychology of the perpetrators. Such collections were u. a. also popular in Germany. The founder of the German crime story was August Gottlieb Meißner . The first German-language “crime thrillers” also included the story Ein Mord in Riga from 1854 and the detective novel Schwarzwaldau by Karl von Holtei from 1855 .

A print from 1833 for the trial of Ephraim K. Avery shows that his innocence was widely doubted and that the jury that acquitted him was not trusted.

In England in the first half of the 19th century, anonymous authors, often including lawyers, often wrote moralizing tracts with the help of wage clerks with depictions of criminal cases and scandal stories from high society and sold them as cheap brochures for the emerging middle classes (so-called fact crime ). In the United States, at the same time, there were rather sober court reports and reports of executions. Forensic medicine also developed and found its literary expression. The coverage of some spectacular cases was emotionally charged. This resulted in the murder trial of the Methodist -Pfarrer Ephraim Kingsbury Avery from Rhode Iceland was who killed a pregnant factory worker, but acquitted in 1833, no less than 21 books and pamphlets. At the end of the 19th century, the paths of detective history and crime reporting finally diverged.

Detective stories

The beginnings

Edgar Allan Poe 1848 ( daguerreotype )

The detective story emerged as a central sub-genre in the 19th century. The term detective comes from Latin ( detegere "to reveal"). The classic detective story is based on a crime reported at the beginning of the story, often a capital crime , such as a murder, which the detective investigates in the course of the plot.

The actual crime story (i.e. how the crime came about) is usually concluded with the beginning of the plot, while the investigation story is described in detail. When solving the crime, the detective usually digs deep into the personal past of the suspects and victims and also examines their private ties.

Edgar Allan Poe is the first author of a real detective story ( The Double Murder on Rue Morgue , 1841). Together with Auguste Dupin, he created “the progenitor of all private eyes (and) his inseparable and nameless companion”. Criminal literary traits can already be found in ancient literature, for example in King Oedipus of Sophocles . Two German-language forerunners of the detective genre are the novella Das Fräulein von Scuderi (1820) by ETA Hoffmann , which is said to have influenced Poe, and the little-known novel Der Kaliber. From the papers of a criminal investigator (1828) by Adolf Müllner . Friedrich Glauser is considered to be the first significant German-speaking detective novelist in recent times .

A special role is played by Wilkie Collins , whose novel The Woman in White , published in 1860, is considered the cornerstone of modern crime fiction. With his novel Law and Woman , 15 years later he created the first of its genre in which a woman acted as a detective. One of Collins' most important imitators in France was Émile Gaboriau , who in turn influenced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle together with Collins . Even Alfred Hitchcock was an ardent admirer of the Victorian writer. In the USA, Anna Katharine Green had a great influence with her careful description of police investigative work. Her first book The Leavenworth Case , published in 1878, was for a time required reading for students at Yale Law School .

The (mostly British) golden years between the two world wars

Ngaio Marsh in the 1940s

1910 was with Mary Roberts Rineharts novel The Man in Lower Ten (dt .: The man in number ten ) for the first time a detective story on the US Annual Bestseller List. The success of this novel heralded a period in which crime novels were also gaining increasing attention in the feature section. The years between the two world wars are generally considered to be the "golden age" of crime fiction. Agatha Christie published her first (at the time little noticed) detective novel in 1920, Dorothy L. Sayers was working on her first work at the same time. Characteristic of this time is the emergence of a literary scheme for this form of literature, which in parallel opened up to ever larger audiences. It is characteristic of the best works from this period that the crime motive - love, vengeance, greed - are generally of the same value as the way in which the crime is exposed and the perpetrator is brought to justice. At the same time there was an argument about what makes a good detective novel. Among the principles of a good narrative, summarized by SS Van Dine and Ronald Knox , among others , was the renunciation of supernatural powers or improbable explanatory patterns, such as the sudden appearance of a twin, secret passages or hidden rooms in contemporary houses, as well as the requirement to identify the perpetrator early on To introduce action. Coincidences or unmotivated confessions that led to the resolution of the case were considered bad style. The reader should have the same information as the investigator and thus have the chance to solve the case independently. In addition to Christie and Sayers, the most important authors of this period include Anthony Berkeley , SS Van Dine, Margery Allingham , Ngaio Marsh , John Dickson Carr , Ellery Queen , the crime poet Cecil Day-Lewis , Rex Stout and Josephine Tey under the pseudonym Nicholas Blake .

A striking number of the protagonists of the crime novels from this period have a special social status: According to their origin, level of education, income and way of life, they are among the so-called “gentleman detectives”. It is ultimately a literary device that Anna Katharine Green first introduced towards the end of the 19th century. Police officers belonged to the lower social classes in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For contemporary readers it was inconceivable that they could solve criminal cases among members of the upper classes on an equal footing. At the same time, however, it was criminal cases that took place in these shifts that were asked about by readers. In the novel The Leavenworth Case, Green put a young lawyer who came from these circles to her investigating police officer. Later authors took up this idea and modified it. Dorothy L. Sayer's protagonist Lord Peter Wimsey can solve criminal cases as a leisure activity thanks to his great fortune and has access to the best circles due to his origins. At the same time he is friends with Inspector Parker and thus has a connection to Scotland Yard. Ngaio Marsh's character, Roderick Alleyn, is also of aristocratic origin, but his interest in criminal work is so great that despite his origins and personal wealth, he has become a police inspector. Agatha Christie's protagonist Miss Marple belongs to the educated gentry , her protagonist Hercule Poirot , as a foreigner, is not subject to the social barriers that characterized British society before the Second World War.

In addition to the classic Whodunits , a form of the psychological crime novel developed as a further variant in the heyday of the English detective novel between 1914 and 1939. While in the "crossword puzzle" novels the search for the perpetrator and the reconstruction of the untold background, motif or course of the crime forms the actual plot, this plot structure is reversed in the "inverted detective story" . The novel describes the prehistory and preparation as well as the course of the deed; the perpetrator is usually known. The detection and dissolution of the Whodunits are replaced by psychological studies of a murder case. The murderer seems to escape detection and punishment, the act apparently goes unpunished. However, due to a surprising twist at the end, mostly due to a coincidence, the relationship between good and evil and the overriding justice are restored. For example, in the novel Malice Aforethought.The Story of a Commonplace Crime (dt. Titles Purposely. The story of an ordinary crime ) carried by A. B. Cox was published in 1931 under the pseudonym "Francis Iles" Dr. Brickleigh was not convicted of the murder of his wife he committed but was hanged for another murder he did not commit. In addition to other novels, which A. B. Cox wrote under his pseudonym as "Francis Iles", the early novels Payment Deferred (1926, German title deferred payment ) and Plain Murder (1930, German title Ein smooth Mord ) are related to this type of psychological crime novel ) calculated by C. S. Forester . Also Graham Greene's fictional studies of young criminals in A Gun For Sale. An Entertainment (1936, German title Das Assentat ) and Brighton Rock (1938, German title Am Abgrund des Lebens ) and novels such as Daphne du Mauriers Jamaica Inn (1936) and Rebecca (1938) - at the same time literary models for the successful film adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock with Laurence Olivier in the lead role - can be seen in this context as a variant of the psychological crime novel.

The “hardboiled detective” as the American answer to the British Whodunits

Among the most violent critics of the crime novels, mainly written by British authors and attributed to the "golden age", were Americans like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett , both authors of crime novels that are characterized by the archetypal " hardboiled detective ". This type of figure is characterized by an illusion-free to cynical view of the world, takes little or no consideration of applicable legal norms, makes unscrupulous use of firearms and lives in latent or open conflict with the police - the latter not least because he used to be himself Was a police officer and has quit duty. The solution to the case is more often less in the foreground than an atmospherically dense narrative and credible acting protagonists. In the novel The Great Sleep by Raymond Chandler, it remains unclear who actually murdered the chauffeur.

Raymond Chandler wrote an essay in 1944 in which he made the distinction to the British Whodunit clear and accused his professional colleagues, who felt obliged to the narrative, of a lack of realism. He confronted Dorothy L. Sayers with the accusation that at best she wrote second-rate literature because she did not deal literarily with issues that characterize first-class literature.

With their counter-drafts to the classic Whodunits, the authors of the "hard-boiled school" paint what they consider to be a more realistic picture of a city life that has become unmanageable, in which corruption and decline in values ​​have permeated all levels of society. The crime is no longer an exception, but becomes an everyday occurrence and an inherent part of society. Law and order are no longer guaranteed by the social institutions in this chaotic, violent area of ​​action, but transferred to individual authorities. Compared to classic detective literature, this implies at the same time a relative arbitrariness of the concept of order: the law and the generally valid order of values ​​are predominantly replaced by an individual moral code. In addition to Chandler's private detective Philip Marlowe , who still shows certain romantic-chivalrous features and tries to preserve his moral integrity, also Mickey Spillane's fictional character, the brutal, misogynistic Mike Hammer, who takes vigilante justice without consideration.

Hammett, too, takes the romanticization of the detective protagonists back in his novels and thus dispenses with an overarching authority. In his short stories and early novels, Hammett uses an anonymous first-person narrator as a hero; Only in later works did his detectives get a name, such as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon or Nick Charles in The Thin Man . The "tough guy" Hammetts is not initially an independent private detective, but works in a large detective agency reminiscent of the Pinkerton Agency , where Hammett himself worked as a detective for eight years. Hammett's hero gets his orders from his boss, who is portrayed as a superhuman father figure. In this way, Hammett's detective is ultimately relieved of the moral responsibility of killing: murders seem justified to the reader.

At their core, the detective novels of the “hard-boiled school” fall back mainly on an American original myth that also carries the genre of the Western : The upright protagonist, who is neither privileged by origin or education and left to his own devices, must be in a borderline situation or in prove a border area in which law and statute cannot be implemented by state institutions.

With the relocation of the action space to an opaque metropolitan area, Chandler and Hammett simultaneously receded the puzzling tension of the classic Whodunits, which constitutes the genre. The abundance of events and facts described in the course of the investigation is no longer logically or causally ordered by a uniform explanatory model; the plot falls apart into numerous smaller individual episodes in which the solution to the original case is no longer the focus or is sometimes completely lost from sight.

The thematic focus is increasingly shifting to the persecution and overcoming of the perpetrator, who is sometimes identified relatively early. Tension is primarily generated by an action-packed course of action or an accumulation of dangerous situations for the investigator; the build-up of tension in the hardboiled model is no longer necessarily geared towards the reconstruction of the course of events or the motives for the crime and its resolution at the end. The reader primarily experiences the drama of the course of the plot with changing tension curves; by ending, for example, chase scenes or breaking off fights and other disputes, the tension is often interrupted in order to be subsequently revived. The narrative is forward-looking and chronologically successive; Instead of a final reconnaissance scene, there is usually a final scene in which the perpetrator is overwhelmed, killed or otherwise rendered harmless.

The development after the end of the Second World War

A crime bookstore in Berlin

The horrors of World War II and the threat of a nuclear conflict between the parties to the conflict during the Cold War also changed the reader's interest. Spy novels like those of Ian Fleming and John le Carré seemed more timely than the cases of traditional detective stories. At the same time, genres such as science fiction and fantasy shed the odium of trivial literature, because authors who write with high literary standards devoted themselves to them. Television changed leisure behavior and led to the disappearance of pulp magazines in which authors could publish crime fiction short stories, especially in the USA . These developments led critics like Julian Symons to forecast the end of the detective novel.

Indeed, the 1950s and 1960s proved to be a transition period for this literary genre. A new generation of authors took into account that the basics of the teachings of Sigmund Freud and CG Jung had meanwhile become part of general knowledge and that at the same time police investigative work had fundamentally changed. The lonely and solitary investigative hardboiled detective seemed just as out of date as the quirky old woman who solves the murder in her village in the style of Miss Marple. Modern police work is the work of a team with well-trained specialists. The first crime novels to take these developments into account are the crime novel V as in Victim by Lawrence Treat , published in 1945, and the novel Last Seen Wearing ... by Hillary Waugh, published in 1952 . Authors who do extensive research to paint a realistic picture of the police investigation include Ed McBain , Elizabeth Linington , Elmore Leonard , Lawrence Sanders and Gwendoline Butler . Some writers like Joseph Wambaugh , Dorothy Uhnak and Janwillem van de Wetering actually worked as police investigators. The German-language detective novel also experienced a breakthrough in the 1950s with three novels by Friedrich Dürrenmatt in which he explored new possibilities of the genre.

Detective novels since the 1960s are characterized by their high degree of diversity: Investigators of both sexes have different socio-cultural backgrounds and preferences, are corrupt or driven by strict moral standards, are disillusioned with their work and their social circumstances or go about their work with a high level of personal commitment . The private investigator has not completely disappeared either. Today he is usually characterized by special knowledge and an investigation in the context of his profession. Classic examples of this are the crime novels by Emma Lathen , whose protagonist is a bank clerk, or the crime novels by Dick Francis , which are set in the setting of horse racing. In Harry Kemelman's Rabbi Small novels, Chesterton's Father Brown is replaced by a rabbi who investigates in a specifically Jewish milieu , which, however, remains understandable even for non-Jewish readers. The cases in Kemelman's novels are solved with the help of pilpul , the talmudic logic. The actual criminal case is essentially a means of reconciling mostly social differences within the Jewish community. Especially in the last works with the rabbi's detective figure, detection is no longer in the foreground; instead, various existential problems are addressed in several narrative strands; the case for the detective does not appear until the end of the novel. For some years now there have been crime novels set in ancient Rome. These historical crime novels, especially the SPQR novels by John Maddox Roberts , as well as those by Steven Saylor , are characterized by a very thorough historical knowledge.

In the early 1970s, PD James was one of the first authors to introduce a woman as an investigator. In the classic 1972 novel of the much sagendem Title At Unsuitable Job for a Woman (dt. Title No Job for a Lady ) solves the young private detective Cordelia Gray awkward something her first case in the extensive work of James but after that occurs only one more time as an investigator. Until the end of the eighties, male detectives in crime novels remained largely established as investigators; only since the 1990s have women increasingly emerged as investigators.

Development of sub-genera


Sherlock Holmes, hero in an Arthur Conan Doyle detective series, meets with Dr. Watson. Both are typical representatives of the genus.

Many detective stories leave the reader in the dark about who perpetrated the crime. The attraction for the reader or viewer, among other things: he can cheer, guess, in the competition with the hero. This special type is also called a whodunit , i.e. H. verbally horned “Who's done it?” (German: “Who did it?”). This describes the classic sequence of a detective story with the ( abductive ) determination of the perpetrator and the mostly fictitious possible, imaginary puzzle opportunity for the reader or viewer. The word is primarily to be seen and understood in contrast to a crime thriller with a different plot, in which the deed and the perpetrator themselves are known and understandable to the reader before the investigation or the deed itself represents the plot. Not every detective or police story is therefore a Whodunit. B. also a road movie .

Arthur Conan Doyle became one of the protagonists of the classic English Whodunit with his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes (from 1887). The Miss Marple novels should also be mentioned, while Hercule Poirot (both characters by the author Agatha Christie ) already has a more explicit, apparently formally predetermined plot as a basic structure. Whodunits can be found in literature to this day, with mystery thrillers being a special genre for adults and children. In film and television they are often and necessarily more formalized than in literature. In the case of television series in particular, a predetermined pattern of action can usually be recognized at a certain distance, whereby in good crime novels this is either effectively covered by accessories or in turn deviating from the rigid specification.

Often accompanied, as Dr. Watson at Doyle, a so-called "Watson figure" who acts as an intermediary between the "brilliant" investigator and the reader, the detective in his investigations. Through dialogues with him and other companions, the detective or narrator can present his conclusions and trains of thought, point out traces and bring in clues, and if necessary cause further confusion. The bypass can be occupied in a wide variety of ways, it ranges from the well-known friend in the police, the gorgeous secretary and the informant on the corner to lovers, colleagues and friends to the intelligent computer in recent crime novels.

Different forms of investigation

Mostly closely related to the Whodunit is the police procedural, together with the often used commissariat topic ( Maigret , Sjöwall / Wahlöö). In addition, there are more and more unusual locations and backgrounds - such as ancient Egypt ( Death Comes as the End , Eng. Avenging Spirits of Agatha Christie ), the Middle Ages ( The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco , Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters ), ancient China ( Richter Di by Robert van Gulik ) or the future ( The last detective as a radio play, The Steel Caves by Isaac Asimov , Minority Report in the film and book, Who steals lower legs? And The sperm bank robbery by Gert Prokop ).

The most recent additions to the crime thriller genre are primarily in the investigation area of ​​pathology ( Samantha Ryan ), psychology and other accompanying sciences. While summaries of the criminalistic techniques (such as that of Vidocq and Bertillon in Paris, in the century of the detectives ) can be found early and often in the form of literary case studies and can still be found in book form today, the border to the other areas of work is today fluent on general legal topics (" Nero Wolfe "), parts of the topic can be found in many crime novels.

In addition to these genre extensions from the accompanying sciences of criminology, journalists and authors also play a role as investigators time and again: Siggi Baumeister in the Eifel crime novels by Jacques Berndorf , Mikael Blomkvist in the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson or Maria Grappa in the eponymous series by Gabriella Want to .

In the English-speaking world, the sub-genre of genealogy crime has developed, which combines criminalistic and genealogical research. German translations have only appeared by Nathan Dylan Goodwin and Dan Waddell.


In the case of a thriller (from English to thrill , 'carry along', 'tie up'), instead of the riddle about the perpetrator being sought, the focus is on the hero's danger. In contrast to the classic detective story, the investigator in the thriller becomes the perpetrator's target. If he portrays an inviolable person in the detective novel, he has to fear for his life in the thriller and not infrequently assert himself vigorously against his opponents. Additional tension is often created by the fact that the reader knows more than the protagonist (this is what creates the thrill ). A thriller therefore predominantly uses an authoritative narrator. In contrast to the classic detective novel, which contains little that is improbable and usually endeavors to reproduce reality in detail, the thrillers mostly do without a realistic reproduction. They live increasingly from the improbable and from a fantastic act that becomes an essential element of tension.

In addition to improbable courses of action, thrillers also typically use shudder or horror effects and frequently use a series of motifs or elements that contradict the principles and rules of pure detective novels, such as the appearance of doppelgangers or "master criminals", the mistaking of twin brothers, dark family secrets, hidden treasures, huge inheritances, castles or cellars with secret passages or rooms. Examples of this can be found in Edgar Wallace's novels, which were very successful at the time . Although a happy ending is no longer inevitable, justice usually wins, even if it may have to be restored by murderers or criminals. There is no fundamentally negative worldview; Crimes are not committed for their own sake, nor do they ultimately pay off; the bourgeois-moral framework of classic detective literature is generally preserved in this respect. The evil villains in the thriller are often projections of the reader's xenophobia , during whose dreams or longings can be projected into the hero. Even Ian Fleming takes over in his later espionage thrillers and agents with the novel and film character of James Bond this pattern of success.

One of the most important founders of the thriller is the Scot John Buchan with his spy novel The Thirty-Nine Steps , published in 1915 , which provided the template for the film of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935 . Eric Ambler also wrote important early (espionage) thrillers .

Black series

Black series is an umbrella term for novels and often black and white films about the lonely big city detective, independent, indomitable, cynical in the midst of a mostly corrupt environment. In the course of the investigation he takes a few blows and distributes others, he cannot or does not want to change the world. He fights alcohol in his own way, weapons and death are tools of the trade, the way of life is also expressed in language. Also known as Lone Wolf, Lone Eye or Private Eye. Further information in the reading list (see above). A transition to police and gangster films, for example, can exist in individual cases, but the fictitious focus lies in and with the lone-eye motif.

The original American version is referred to as a hardboiled detective novel , the French version derived from it as Roman noir .

The upside-down sign, whatever the design of the crook as a contrast to the investigation, must not be forgotten as a topic. Examples include Arsène Lupine , Fantômas and AJ Raffles from EW Hornung and the series Dickie Dick Dickens on the radio .

Gangster ballads

A frequent starting point for gangster ballads is or was Chicago around Prohibition. Al Capone and other real names serve as a hook in the crime thriller. The Midwest and the Dust Bowl in times of the Depression and the New Deal have also served as popular motifs since Bonnie & Clyde. At the same time, it is also the starting point for police and FBI stories, analogous to New York, San Francisco and other well-known American cities.

In contrast to the earlier genre, it can be the case that today every larger or more well-known crime experiences a cinematic and possibly also literary, partly biographical processing from the perspective of the victim, perpetrator or investigator. In the newer cinema, the comedy theme is increasingly being used again, sometimes in the direction of gallows humor or black series. Well-known subgenres are also the prison film and the plot of planning, execution and failure or success, also known with Topkapi .

Funny thriller

Funny or at least enjoyable parts loosen up the plot of some crime novels. Individual crime novels are primarily looking for humor.

In the case of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers , for example, those questioned underestimated their investigators downright comically. Authors such as Charlotte MacLeod , Donna Leon , Anne Chaplet , Christopher Stahl or Jacques Berndorf use recognition effects: their protagonists struggle with problems similar to those of the readers. With Jakob Arjouni, on the other hand, the joke arises from the contrast between the thoughts presented by the "first-person narrator" and the reality of the words spoken.

Sometimes a cynical commentary by a character is used in modern crime novels in order to loosen up the tension that has just arisen as a result of drastic scenes of violence. This is intended to alleviate the violence and also show that the protagonist controls the situation in spite of everything. For a few current authors, bizarre humor and thus laughing at their stories is at least as important as creating tension or shuddering the reader. Typical examples are: the popular Austrian writer Wolf Haas or the North German crime writer André Bawar .

Especially in children's and teenage thrillers , comedic elements are mostly used, for example in Astrid Lindgren's Kalle Blomquist or - more recently - in Owls by Carl Hiaasen . The comic elements are often linked to certain characters. This applies to dumplings at TKKG , for example . The novels by Nils-Olof Franzén with the "master detective" Agaton Sax are completely bizarre .

Writing quality in crime fiction and humor are not mutually exclusive : with the Last Laugh Dagger (originally created as The Punch Award ), the British Crime Writers' Association (CWA) honored the most humorous English-language crime novel from 1988 to 1996.

The regional thriller

In contrast to the crime novel, the regional thriller is more sociologically oriented. The subplot is of great importance here. What does the crime convey? (Historical background etc.). The name gives the first indication of the main focus of the subplot, i.e. the main topic of the regional thriller, namely the region. However, not every book that is set in a certain region is a regional thriller. A distinction is made here in the level of detail, the region mentioned must be "presented" in a certain way (good and bad sides). How detailed this happens is up to each author.

Due to the precise description of a city, the regional crime thriller could also be regarded as a piece of local literature .

Multimedia spread

Crime stories are to be seen as an established genre across all media. While the origins were in novels and pennies , crime thrillers can now be found in all media, from television to films to manga and comics (for example Blacksad as a “remake” of the black series, Dick Tracy). One example is the Nestor Burma series by Léo Malet , edited for television and radio, skilfully implemented by Jacques Tardi in the Bande Dessinée , in the comic. The range extends from the youth area ( The Three Question Marks , The Black Hand, Nick Knatterton) to the adult area of ​​the red light district and erotic mangas.

Exemplary selection

Novel examples

Well-known detectives of the classic detective novel:

Well-known literary representatives in the police and secret service sector:

The hardboiled detective's own genre includes Lew Archer ( Ross Macdonald ), Vincent Calvino ( Christopher G. Moore ), Mike Hammer , Philip Marlowe ( Raymond Chandler ) and Sam Spade ( Dashiell Hammett ). The subgenre is widespread, not least through the cinema of film noir , as various cinematic modifications (not infrequently film adaptations of the literary models) prove.

More recent criminologists include Commissioner Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg ( Fred Vargas ), Simon Brenner ( Wolf Haas ), Commissioner Guido Brunetti ( Donna Leon ), Markus Cheng ( Heinrich Steinfest ), private detective Henry Drake ( Andreas P. Pittler ), Polonius Fischer ( Friedrich Ani ), Maresciallo Guarnaccia ( Magdalen Nabb ), Irene Huss ( Helene Tursten ), Inspector Richard Jury ( Martha Grimes ), Inspector Lynley ( Elizabeth George ), Superintendent Alan Markby ( Ann Granger ), Commissario Salvo Montalbano ( Andrea Camilleri ), the Tiger cat Mrs. Murphy ( Rita Mae Brown ), John Rebus ( Ian Rankin ), Vic Warshawski ( Sara Paretsky ) and private detective Max Winter ( Felix Thijssen ).

Detective stories in radio plays

Detective stories in comics

Socially and socially critical crime novels (examples)

Museums and Archives (selection)

Crime archive etc. in the "Kriminalhaus"

The 30,000 volume German crime story archive of the married couple Monika and Ralf Kramp , which is operated as a reference library , moved to the “Alte Gerberei” in Hillesheim (Eifel) in mid-September 2007 . Crime fans will also find the “Café Sherlock” there, a publisher specializing in regional crime fiction (KBV) and a bookstore. The detective house has been located in a historic coffee house in Hillesheim since 2013 and has been expanded to include a Sherlock Holmes exhibition, an Agatha Christie collection and a crime book shop.

Crime Museum

The first German “unconventional crime museum” with bibliophiles was opened in 2007 in the remote Stollhamm in the north-west of Lower Saxony by the 39-year-old publisher, graphic artist and collector Mirko Skull in a converted horse stable: Around 4500 exclusively German-language exhibits from the “Groschenheft about Reclam's machine books and editions of the“ Illustrirten Criminal-Zeitung ” "Up to the elaborately tied leather rind".

See also


  • Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery - The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists . Thomas Dunne Books, New York 2011, ISBN 978-0-312-27655-3 .
  • Lee Horsley: Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2005, ISBN 0-19-928345-1 .
  • James N. Frey: How to Write a Damn Good Detective Novel , Emons Verlag 2004, ISBN 978-3-7408-0889-1
  • Dorothee Kimmich, Philipp Alexander Ostrowicz, Sara Bangert (eds.): Poetics of Crime. The poetics of crime fiction. (Tuebingen Poetics Lecturer 2017) Swiridoff, Künzelsau 2018, ISBN 978-3-89929-367-8 .
  • Volker Ladenthin: Clarification before clarification. Literary detectives in the German Middle Ages . In: Armin Arnold u. a. (Ed.): Sherlock Holmes on the back stairs. Essays on crime fiction . Bouvier, Bonn 1981, ISBN 3-416-01648-3 , pp. 82-113.
  • Ulrike Leonhardt: Murder is her job. The story of the detective novel . CH Beck, Munich 1990, ISBN 3-406-34420-8 .
  • Ernest Mandel : A beautiful murder. Social history of the crime novel ("Delightful murder"). Athenaeum, Frankfurt / M. 1987, ISBN 3-610-04703-8 .
  • Peter Nusser : The detective novel. 4th, updated and exp. Metzler, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-476-14191-0 .
  • Mirko skull: Illustrated bibliography of crime literature from 1796 to 1945 in the German-speaking area . Achilla-Presse, Butjadingen 2006, ISBN 3-928398-92-X (2 volumes).
  • Nina Schindler (Ed.): The murder book. Everything about crime novels . Claassen, Hildesheim 1997, ISBN 3-546-00122-2 .
  • Jochen Schmidt : gangsters, victims, detectives. A type story of the crime novel . Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-548-34488-7 .
  • Ulrich Suerbaum: Crime. An analysis of the genus . Reclam, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-15-010331-2 .
  • Jochen Vogt (ed.): The crime novel. Poetics, Theory, History ( UTB ; 8147). Fink, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-8252-8147-7 .
  • Klaus-Peter Walter (Ed.): Reclams Krimi-Lexikon . Authors and works. Philipp Reclam Jun., Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-15-010509-9 .
  • Andreas Mauz, Adrian Portmann (ed.): Unsolved cases. Religion and Contemporary Crime Fiction . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-8260-4867-8 . (Interpretation Interdisciplinary, Vol. 12).
  • Luc Boltanski : Énigmes et complots. Une enquête à propos d'enquêtes , Paris (Gallimard) 2012. ISBN 978-2-07-013629-2

Web links

Wikisource: Detective novel  - sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Detective novel  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas M. McDade: The Annals of Murder. University of Oklahoma Press 1961.
  2. Eric AmbLer : Foreword to: The talent to kill. Zurich 1988, p. 14.
  3. cf. Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini : The Truth About The D. Case ; 1994 (La verità sul caso D .; 1989)
  4. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery - The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists . Thomas Dunne Books, New York 2011, ISBN 978-0-312-27655-3 . P. 7
  5. Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery , p. 35.
  6. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery . P. 73.
  7. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery . P. 75.
  8. Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery , p. 77.
  9. Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery , p. 74.
  10. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery , p. 215.
  11. See Paul G. Buchloh, Jens P. Becker: "The Golden Age of the Detective Novel" . In: dies .: The detective novel . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2nd revised edition, ISBN 3-534-05379-6 , Darmstadt 1978, pp. 75ff.
  12. Hiney, T. and MacShane, F. "The Raymond Chandler Papers" Letter to Jamie Hamilton, March 21, 1949: 105, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000
  13. Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery , p. 78.
  14. See Sven Strasen, Peter Wenzel: The detective story in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In: Arno Löffler, Eberhard Späth (Hrsg.): History of the English short story. Francke Verlag, Tübingen and Basel 2005, ISBN 3-7720-3370-9 , pp. 101f. See also Paul Gerhard Buchloh , Jens P. Becker: The detective novel. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2nd revised edition, ISBN 3-534-05379-6 , Darmstadt 1978, pp. 101 and 105. See also Hannah Scharf: Wolf Haas and the crime novel: entertainment between traditional gene structures and innovation. Diplomica Verlag, Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-8428-7129-8 , p. 56ff.
  15. See Paul G. Buchloh, Jens P. Becker: The detective novel. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2nd revised edition, ISBN 3-534-05379-6 , Darmstadt 1978, pp. 97f. Buchloh and Becker refer here to Leslie Fiedler: Love and Death in the American Novel. New York 1960, p. 466.
  16. See Paul G. Buchloh, Jens P. Becker: The detective novel. Scientific book company, 2nd revised edition, ISBN 3-534-05379-6 , Darmstadt 1978, p. 99. See also Sven Strasen, Peter Wenzel: The detective story in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In: Arno Löffler, Eberhard Späth (Hrsg.): History of the English short story. Francke Verlag, Tübingen and Basel 2005, ISBN 3-7720-3370-9 , pp. 101f. and Ulrich Suerbaum: Krimi: An analysis of the genre. Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-15-010331-2 , p. 129
  17. Sven Strasen, Peter Wenzel: The detective story in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In: Arno Löffler, Eberhard Späth (Hrsg.): History of the English short story. Francke Verlag, Tübingen and Basel 2005, ISBN 3-7720-3370-9 , p. 103.
  18. See Hannah Scharf: Wolf Haas and the crime novel: Conversation between traditional genre structures and innovation. Diplomica Verlag, Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-8428-7129-8 , pp. 58ff.
  19. ^ A b Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery , p. 321.
  20. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery , p. 322.
  21. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery , p. 323.
  22. See Paul G. Buchloh, Jens P. Becker: The American detective novel after 1945 . In: dies .: The detective novel . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2nd revised edition, ISBN 3-534-05379-6 , Darmstadt 1978, pp. 153ff.
  23. Markus Schröder: Marlowe in Toga? Crime stories about ancient Rome. The historical detective novel as a new genre of trivial literature using the example of the SPQR novels by John Maddox Roberts. IFB-Verlag, Paderborn 2001, ISBN 3-931263-21-5 .
  24. See Sonja Osterwalder: Dark Enlightenment: the detective literature from Conan Doyle to Cornwell . Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-205-78602-3 , pp. 187f. ( [1] ). Retrieved May 30, 2015.
  25. ^ Genealogical Mysteries . In: Julie's Genealogy & History Hub . June 12, 2014 ( [accessed November 5, 2017]).
  26. See Paul G. Buchloh, Jens P. Becker: "The Golden Age of the Detective Novel" . In: dies .: The detective novel . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2nd revised edition, ISBN 3-534-05379-6 , Darmstadt 1978, p. 77.
  27. See Paul G. Buchloh, Jens P. Becker: "The Golden Age of the Detective Novel". In: dies .: The detective novel . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2nd revised edition, ISBN 3-534-05379-6 , Darmstadt 1978, p. 78f.
  28. crime block: What is a regional crime thriller? . Retrieved December 11, 2010.
  29. Article: The German Regional Crime . Retrieved December 11, 2010.
  30. ^ The Hillesheim detective house., accessed on July 1, 2018 .
  31. “A good murder, a real murder, a beautiful murder, as beautiful as you can possibly ask, we haven't had one for a long time.” - Georg Büchner : Woyzeck , 27th and last scene: “Court usher, doctor, judge «.