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Understanding The Murder Mystery

jeremy | Wednesday April 27, 2011

Categories: GCSE, AQA GCSE, Hot Entries, Television, Television Crime Drama

It all began in Wiltshire with the brutal murder of a three year old boy in June 1860. His body was taken from his bed at his home Road Hill House and dumped in the privy.

Who done it and why?

The crucial murder mystery element was that all the principal suspects were the people in the house at the time – the family and the servants.

The media in the form of local and national newspapers reported with relish every detail of the case and it gripped the nation like no other crime, especially as one of Scotland Yard’s first detectives was in charge – Inspector Jack Whicher.

This crime almost certainly inspired what is considered the first detective novel Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone in 1968, and Conan Doyle although he did not publish Sherlock Holmes for another 20 years.

You may have seen over Easter 2011 the excellent ITV drama The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, based on Kate Summerscale’s superbly researched book. Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple, Inspector Barnaby of Midsomer Murders, Morse, Rosemary and Thyme, Jonathan Creek, Lewis and of course the various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes and even Columbo are all fictional descendents of the real Jack Whicher, and inhabit this genre of TV crime drama known as murder mystery.

Some of these detectives have character flaws and they all share an ability to ‘read’ the criminal mind. 

Starting with Sherlock Holmes the genre evolved into the ‘buddy’ detective drama offering more scope for humour, complex dialogue and a widening out of the setting as Holmes and Watson move around the country looking for the criminal, and then the detective himself is targeted. Most detectives have a side kick who complements their abilities, and provides dialogue opportunities so that details of the case can be revisited and discussed.

Interestingly Agatha Christie detectives Poirot and Miss Marple work entirely alone and usually show up the regular police inspector’s...

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