Traditional detective stories fall into three groups, whodunit murders,mysteries with a twist in the tale and “locked room” stories. A whodunit mystery is a story where the detective has to find out who commited the murder by unravelling a series of clues that will eventually lead him to the murderer.There are usually a group of characters who are potential suspects because they have either a method or a motive for the crime.As the story moves on the detective slowly eliminates all the suspects in his mind until only one remains.
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The detective then usually calls all the suspects together and reveals the perpetrator.When the villain is taken away the detective them goes on to explain how he assembled all the clues and how they led him to the murderer.
An example of how Conan Doyle exploits this is in the Cardboard Box when a cardboard package is sent to Miss Susan Cushing with a pair of preserved human ears in it and no-one knows why or who the ears belong to.
Conan Doyle exploits this by removing the elimination process and turning it into a hunt for who the ears belong to and who must have killed the owners. After using his powers of observation, “I percieved that her ear corresponded exactly with the female ear which I had just inspected.
The matter twas entirely beyond coincidence.There was the same shortening if the pinna,the sam broad curve of the upper lobe,the same convolution of the inner cartilage.In all essentials it was the same ear.” He comes to the conclusion, that one of Miss Cushing’s sisters, who is mentioned at the beginning of the story, and her lover were killed by her jealous husband.He was driven back to drinking by the rumours spread about him by the third of the Cushing sisters.
The Mystery with a twist is a story that appears to follow the traditional lines of a murder or a crime story but then has an unexpected twist at the end.An example of how Conan Doyle exploits this is in the Silver Blaze story.In Silver Blaze a prize winning horse has been stolen and its trainer murdered.Sherlock Holmes is then called in and after following a series of clues he comes to the startling conclusion that Silver Blaze’s trainer,John Straker was not murdered but was kicked in the head by his horse when trying to sabotage its chances in it’s next race.
The horse had then run away from it’s stables and was picked up by a rival stable owner; then kept hidden by painting it brown and passing it off as one of his own horses.A long series of clues were pieced together to lead to this conclusion.So the twist in this tale was that there was no murder when from the start all the evidence make it appear so.
The “locked room” story type is a story where a murder has been commited in a locked room but there is no murderer,no murder weapon and no evidence of a suicide.In the Speckled Band a murder was commited two years ago but no-one knows how or why the girl died because she was in a locked room with barred windows and there was no evidence to show how she died apart from fright.Conan Doyle exploits this by having Holmes be visited by the sister of the murderd girl and say that she is afraid that the same thing will happen to her. “Yet if the lady is correct in saying that the flooring and walls are sound,and that the door,window,and chimney are impassable,the her sister must have undoubtedly been alone when she met her mysterious end.” Holmes is trying to find out from the beginning how a murder could take place in a locked room with no way to enter.
After visiting the house, Holmes and Watson decided to stay in Ms.Stoner’s room and while they are there a snake drops through the ventilation shaft, which was intended to kill Ms.Stoner.The snake then retreats back through the ventilation shaft and bites Dr.Gimesby Roylott the owner of the snake.It can seem very obvious from the beginnning of the story that Dr.Roylott has something to do with the murder but there is no evidence to prove this.Holmes then using his powers of deduction and observation uncovers Dr.Roylotts plans but inadvertantly causes his death.
The genre used in the Red Headed League is that of a simple mystery.At the beginning it is not obvious that a crime is being commited but it is obvious that something very strange is happening.Conan Doyle exploits this by not giving us a target to point our suspicions at because there is no murderer that needs to be found or stolen property that needs to be recovered.There is just a simple mystery that leads on to a much larger one.
The mystery is that a Mr.Wilson had been admitted to this organisation called the Red Headed league who would pay him four pounds per week to copy out the Encylopaedia Britannica. He thought this a bit odd but carried on with it for a number of weeks until one day the offices of the League were closed.He then went to see Sherlock Holemes,who after investigating the mystery found out that a much larger plot was at work.
Mr.Wilson’s apprentice pawnbroker Vincent Spaulding is really a wanted criminal who set up the League with a friend as a way of getting Mr.Wilson to leave his shop for a few hours a day.During that time they were digging a tunnel from the basement of the shop to a nearby bank.This kind of mystery cannot be solved from the start and readers can only suspect that the apprentice has anything to do with the mystery. This kind of plot could be called a “Hidden-crime” mystery.
In conclusion I would say that Arthur Conan Doyle exploits many different kinds of traditional detecitve stories and gives them his own unique twist.He uses logic mixed with intricate plots and a sometimes a few “red herrings,” as in the Red Headed League.Some devoted readers prefer his earlier stories when Sherlock Holmes performed his observational miracles,however,one can only say that which ever you prefer Conan Doyle’s work is still read and admired today.