The “A Tale of Two Cities” and “A Glimpse of the World With Detectives” blog posts from “Confessions of a Readaholic” have caused me to think lately about what a detective story really is (and since my posts lately been pretty much dominated by the Anna Karenina Classical Music Stories series, I thought I’d take a quick break to talk about something different).
Sure, we generally think of them as containing, well, a detective, and solving a mysterious crime. But I’m starting to think that other stories are like “detective” stories, too.
After all, when you read a book you’re always solving a mystery in a sense. You gradually discover who the characters are, what will happen to them, and/or how what will happen actually happens (these last two especially tend to happen when a book begins in the middle or at the end). You become the detective. With Sherlock, then, or really any detective novel, it’s like a mystery within a mystery…inception mystery!!
So without further ado, here are my top six non-detective detective books:
1) Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
When I read this I was just blown away. How Hugo was able to gradually reveal all of those connections between characters is simply incredible. This book may be long, but it’s totally worth it.
2) A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Dickens uses a similar strategy as Hugo but on a smaller scale. There is also a sense of dread and expectation as the reader waits to find out if the characters will escape the bloody toll of the revolution.
3) Hamlet by William Shakespeare
We’re told in the very first act who the murderer is…the real mystery is waiting to see whether Hamlet will act on this knowledge or not.
4) The 12 Dancing Princesses recorded by the Brothers Grimm
This is more of your stereotypical mystery, though the fairy tale is very short. In the mornings the twelve princesses’ shoes are worn through, but no one can figure out where they’re dancing at night. The King hosts a competition among the princes to see who can figure it out.
5) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
This is another book that is actually more or less a true mystery. Who is Mr. Rochester keeping in his house?? The mystery isn’t the whole or even the main part of the story per se, but it is very important…and somewhat terrifying.
6) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Who is Mr. Darcy, really? More specifically, is Wickham really a gentleman or not?
If you’ve read any of these, what do you think about considering them “detective” stories? Are there any other books you would add to the list?