The First Detective/Mystery Story

The First Detective/Mystery Story

By Leo N. Ardo

Before the first words were input for this post the debate over the first mystery book has engaged many critics and scholars. The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), written by Edgar Allan Poe, has been credited by many as the first detective/mystery book, but it was technically a short story. Could the first novel length story have been The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins in 1859; or was it The Notting Hill Mystery, by Charles Felix in 1862? “It’s a mystery,” to quote a line from the movie Shakespeare in Love.

The inescapable fact is The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe defined the standard.

A brilliant detective and a baffling crime, which requires superior intelligence to solve. Helped along by a doting friend or colleague who chronicles the case. The police initially assume a position of skepticism and disdain only to be humbled and amazed as the case is unfurled before them at the end.

R.D. Collins, 2004, Classic Crime Fiction,


The first detective, C. Auguste Dupin, appears in two other Poe stories: The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842) and The Purloined Letter (1844).

Edgar Allan Poe established the genre. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mastered Poe’s “formula” with Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet (1887), The Sign of Four (1890), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901), The Valley of Fear (1914), and fifty-six other short stories.

Edgar Allan Poe’s life (1809–1849) was short. Many of his literary works were published anonymously or under the pseudonym Henri Le Rennet. His life was also a series of misfortunes:

– His father abandoned the family in 1810.

– His mother died from tuberculosis in 1811.

– His foster family did not formally adopt him.

– While attending the University of Virginia, his fiancé married another man (1826).

– Unable to support himself, he joined the army as Edgar A. Perry (1827).

– He was discharged in 1829 after finding a replacement to finish his enlistment.

– He was admitted to West Point in 1830 and then disowned by his foster father at the demands of his new wife.

– In 1831 he tactically sought a court marital. He was tried, and found guilty, for gross neglect of duty.

– He was unable to get published because the publishing industry was pirating British books rather than paying for American works.

– Virginia Poe, his wife, was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1842.

– Received a total of nine dollars for his popular poem “The Raven” (1845).

– Virginia died in 1847.

– Mystery surrounds his death in 1849.

Source: Wikipedia – Edgar Allan Poe

Sadly, Edgar Allan Poe lived only forty years—the average lifespan for his time.



Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                       Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life we had. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish the goals of culling terrorists from the company’s employees, maintaining employment, ensuring that products ship to the armed forces, and eliminating the shipments to the enemy.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1,000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in, I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: Luck has blessed me with the girl of my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.


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