27. The Detective Story

  1. Alfred Bendixen Professor founder Executive Director2 and
  2. James Nagel Professor Rockefeller Fellow3
  1. Catherine Ross Nickerson Associate Professor

Published Online: 16 MAR 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9781444319910.ch27

A Companion to the American Short Story

A Companion to the American Short Story

How to Cite

Ross Nickerson, C. (2010) The Detective Story, in A Companion to the American Short Story (eds A. Bendixen and J. Nagel), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444319910.ch27

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Texas A&M University, USA

  2. 3

    University of Georgia, USA

Author Information

  1. Emory University, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 16 MAR 2010
  2. Published Print: 19 FEB 2010

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405115438

Online ISBN: 9781444319910



  • detective story;
  • Kinsey Milhone stories, “The Parker Shotgun” - Sue Grafton with her detective looking for a rare and valuable shotgun as key evidence in a brutal murder;
  • two main reasons why fans and detractors of detective fiction - put down the genre;
  • Bobbi Ann Mason, poking fun at Nancy Drew series - comparing their plots to sonnets, “endless variations on an inflexible form”;
  • what defines detective fiction - being more a matter of structure than of content;
  • doubled structure of detective fiction, creating complex relationships between triad of characters at the heart of the story;
  • understanding how structural features - are played out in detective stories;
  • powerful impulse toward creativity, Poe imbued in his detective - staying with the genre over the last century and a half;
  • multiple sub-genres of detective story and recurrent debates about its capabilities


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • References and Further Reading