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Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science
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  • 30 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 364 pages
  • Size: 231 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.55 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521527620 | ISBN-10: 0521527627)

  • Also available in Hardback
  • Published January 2004

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$42.99 (C)

This is the first book about the relationship between the development of forensic science in the nineteenth century and the new literary genre of detective fiction in Britain and America--from Poe, Dickens and Hawthorne through Twain and Conan Doyle to Hammett, Chandler and Christie. Ronald R. Thomas is especially concerned with the authority the literary detective manages to secure through the "devices"--fingerprinting, photography, lie detectors--and the way in which those devices relate to broader questions of cultural authority at decisive moments in the history of the genre.


1. The devices of truth; Part I. Tell-Tale Hearts: 2. The lie detector and the thinking machine; 3. The unequal voice in 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue'; 4. The letter of the law in The Woman in White; 5. The criminal type in 'A Case of Identity'; 6. The voice of America in Red Harvest; Part II. Arresting Shots: 7. The mug shot and the magnifying glass; 8. Photographic memories in Bleak House; 9. Double exposure in The House of the Seven Gables; 10. Negative images in 'A Scandal in Bohemia'; 11. Empty cameras in The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely; Part III. Identifying Marks: 12. The fingerprint and the map of crime; 13. Foreign bodies in A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four; 14. Accusing hands in Puddn'head Wilson; 15. International plots in The Maltese Falcon and Murder on the Orient Express; 16. Missing persons and secret agents; Selected works for further reading.


"This is a persuasive, original and stimulating work that more than achieves its most important goals." Alison Winter, Times Literary Supplement

"The first study of the relationship between the creation of the detective story in the 19th century and the development of forensic science, this book argues that the new science not only gave the detective figure the authority to pursue his profession but also represented a broader cultural authority of the time." Choice

"I can summarize his scholarly, but by no means dry or pedantic, book in his own words: "While the narratives of writers like Poe, Dickens and Conan Doyle often reflected and popularized contemporary scientific theories of law enforcement, the detective stories they wrote also sometimes anticipated actual procedures," so that it was almost "commonplace for early criminologists to attribute inspiration for their theories to the methods of a Sherlock Holmes or an Auguste Dupin."" John Linsenmeyer

"Thomas's study seems to me one of the best of the books on mystery literture pubished in the past decade...Thomas relates the development of detective fiction to a substantial body of clearly relevant social and cultural material conneted with the rise of forensic science...deeply researched and brilliantly argued treatment of the detective genre." American Literature

"In this decisive, carefully organized study, Thomas's close and provocative reading of a wide variety of fiction expose the limitations, often the dangers, of reliance on forensic science to interpret the behavior of human beings, either as a group or as individuaLs." English Literature in Transition 2002

"I have noticed with pleasure that Ronald Thomas's excellent book Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science was discovered by other critics immediately upon its publication...Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science is a really full book. Thoams has read widely and well in literature and criminology...Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science is a rich and dense text with implicarions for contemporary forensic science" South Central Review

"Offers a well-told and well-illustrated history." Studies in English Literature

"Thomas subject is rich and varied" Albion

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