The Mysteries of the Cities: Urban Crime Fiction in the Nineteenth Century
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The texts under consideration span the nineteenth-century city mysteries to contemporary populist crime fiction.
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The collection opens with a reflective essay by Ian Rankin and aims to inaugurate a dialogue between Anglophone and European crime writing; to explore the marginalised works of Irish and Welsh writers alongside established European crime writers and to interrogate the relationship between fact and fiction, creativity and criticism, within the crime genre. This exciting new collection reconsiders and rereads the significance of location in crime fiction. Cities and crime have always been inextricably connected: city living engenders crime in its juxtaposition of wealth and poverty and in the anonymity and alienation of the individual in the mass.
Importantly, the focus is not just on the capital cities of London, Paris and Rome, which have long been associated with the genre, but on cities such as Cardiff and Edinburgh, Dublin and Stockholm, which are more immediately concerned with emerging national identities. Opening with crime writer Ian Rankin's exposition on Edinburgh and closing with Professor Stephen Knight's exploration of the nineteenth-century crime-inflected 'Mysteries of the Cities', the collection has both academic rigour and popular appeal.
In particular, Knight singles out those, including himself, whose research on the development of crime fiction has focused on the figure of the detective and who have consequently ignored a significant contribution to modern criminography. Knight has undertaken the enormous task of reading the texts in depth and detail, synopsising and summarising their plots and revealing their complex interrelationships and literary, historical, social, political and national contexts.
The 'mysteries' depicted in the narratives realise and articulate what Knight calls 'the problems and possibilities of life in the new megalopolis' p. But by contrast to the accepted account of crime fiction's development with its focus on the individual who solves the modern mysteries of the cities epitomised retrospectively in Poe's Dupin , Knight argues that the 'Mysteries' updated the earlier Newgate Calendar format.
He contends that the 'threatened community model' of the Calendars is mapped onto the 'lost community' p. But if the 'Mysteries' speak back to the pre-metropolitan Calendars, they also speak forward to later crime Author: Heather Worthington.
- Stephen Knight, The Mysteries of the Cities: Urban Crime Fiction in the Nineteenth Century.
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