10. Crime and Detection

Wilkie Collins (1824–1889)
The Moonstone: a Romance
London: Chatto and Windus, 1875

Sixteen years after Bleak House was first published, Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, a story of the theft of a famous diamond and the ensuing intrigue and murder, came out, also in serial form. While Dickens was one of the first British writers to provide a detective character, Collins provided in The Moonstone one of the first British examples of a more pure detective novel, a sub-genre of crime fiction. Both employ suspense, realism, and the search for identity to tell a story. While the detective novel relies on uncovering clues to slowly reveal the solution to its mystery, crime fiction (of which Crime and Punishment is a prominent example) focuses instead on the criminal’s personal experience. Crime and detective fiction, along with the Victorian sensation novel, were often influenced by true crimes of the day and were popular among all classes of readers.

The illustration shown here, by F. A. Fraser, features the genre’s icon – the detective. Collins’s Sergeant Cuff is a descendant of Edgar Allan Poe’s premier genre detective C. Auguste Dupin and the near-contemporary of Crime and Punishment’s Porfiry Petrovich. Fraser was a prominent illustrator in Britain, contributing to The Moonstone, Dickens’s Great Expectations, and various children’s books.

Kristina McGuirk

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