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Examine three of the pre-1914 mystery stories you have read, commenting on the different approaches of the writers and explaining what you think makes a good mystery story.

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Introduction

I studied three short stories, "the Red Room, "the Signalman" and "the Speckled Band". The stories are all linked together as they all have a sense of mystery, however they all have a different emphasis. "The Speckled Band" is a detective, murder mystery story yet the other two are ghost stories. All of the stories were written before 1914. It was around this time that people had gained a fascination with the criminal mind; they liked the idea of the clumsy criminal being outsmarted and captured by the genius detective. The Victorians also had a liking for the workings of the mind/psychoanalysis "set against the interest in the spirit world and the supernatural". When they were first used, the railways represented glamour and mystique, and were the most advanced mode of transport. At the time of the Victorians they had an interest in scientific advances, so you had the conflict between this interest and the interest in the spiritual world, for example, in "the Red Room" - the old people believed in ghosts, however the man did not, the author did this in a way to provide conflict, as arguments could be brought up from both sides. ...read more.

Middle

shows the reader just how isolated he is, as there is no obvious way of getting down, so there mustn't be any necessity to make a path way. His surprise at receiving this visitor is one of suspicion and generates more tension, "his attitude was one of such expectation and watchfulness" that explains to the reader he is ready for something to happen, he is ready to run away, and this is causing the reader to think that something is going to happen and the build up to that causes anxiety. The way in which the signalman "directs a cautious look to the light" forms apprehension as the reader is still expecting something to happen. This is completely the opposite to the Sherlock Holmes story ("the Speckled Band") as in that the author wanted to be relaxed and comfortable with the story so far before he described the mystery through Miss Helen Stoner. He produced this feeling of comfort by having a nice room with comfortable chairs, food and a nice warm fire. Also Holmes and Watson didn't give the impression that they were scared of their visitor, which is what is happening in "the Signalman". ...read more.

Conclusion

All the stories "plunge into action" very early on into the story, and are focused, mainly, on one or two of the key points with very few characters over a relatively short space of time. The description is vital on building tension in the story; all of the stories I studied described the surroundings well enough to form this feeling. I like "The Red Room" out of the three I chose to read, I liked it primarily due to the fact that it wasn't answered fully, the story was left open for my mind to come up with possible solutions. I would be able to read it again, and not have the main essence of a mystery story, mystery, taken out of it, like I believe happened in "The Speckled Band" and "The Signalman" and "The Red Room" you are unknown...anonymous. You can find it easier to put the story down and walk away, but in "The Speckled Band" Watson (the narrator) is needed, you feel the need to continue reading because Sherlock Homes himself asked you to be with him on the investigation ("your presence might be invaluable") you feel as though you have betrayed him if you walk away from the story. And though I don't like detective stories, I found this one the most fascinating out of the ones I studied for that reason. Sarah Cooper 11W2 Mr Tonkin - English ...read more.

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