Andrew Marr investigates the curious case of detective fiction: a genre which has been producing best-sellers since the 19th century and whose most famous heroes, including Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Inspector Rebus, are now embedded in our collective psyche. But how does detective fiction work, and how do the best crime writers keep us compulsively turning the pages?
To find out, Andrew deconstructs detective stories, exploring the rules and conventions present in any typical mystery to reveal how writers such Agatha Christie have created a seemingly infinite number of story-telling possibilities.
He also explores the role of the fictional detective - a figure capable of taking readers to places they wouldn’t normally visit. In so doing, he shows how writers have used crime fiction not merely to entertain, but also to anatomise issues in society.
As well as interviewing modern-day crime writers Ian Rankin, Anthony Horowitz, Sophie Hannah and Val McDermid, Andrew examines the work of important pioneers such as Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett and Ruth Rendell, decoding the various set-pieces of the detective novel such as Hercule Poirot’s drawing room denouements and the ‘locked room’ mysteries of John Dickson Carr.