What is detective fiction?
The Talented Mr. Ripley
’E’ for Evidence
Joseph Wood Krutch’s “Only a Detective Story,” in Robin W. Winks’
Questioning, Eliciting, Reading, Discussion.
-Ask students if someone says, “Now what happened to my glasses?” if that represents a mystery?
-Ask students if a mystery must have a murder, a detective, and clues? Which do they feel essential? What have they read to make them feel any or all three ingredients have to be present?
-Follow-up on books they report they have read. What do they most remember about the books? Was it an enjoyable experience? Why did they like or dislike the book?
-Tell students about Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley. He is a man without conscience, a very charming man, who murders a rich friend, impersonates him, and is never caught.
-Tell students about Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone. She works parttime as an insurance investigator for California Fidelity in exchange for office space which permits her to run her own private investigator business. She is accused of insurance fraud and sets about to prove her innocence.
-Tell them both books are shelved in the mystery section of the library.
-Ask them if they think they should be shelved in the same place. Explore their reasoning through discussion.
-Distribute copies of Krutch’s article. Depending on the length of the class discussion, students can either begin reading the article and finish for homework, or the article can be assigned for homework. In both situations, the assignment should be made in conjunction with the following questions:
Write an essay speculating about the following:
(a) What elements does a book have to have to separate it from general fiction to mystery fiction?
(b) Discuss the different values which can be found in mystery fiction insofar as students are familiar with them.
(c) Are those values as “important” as those found in (use a title, preferably a classic, which the teacher knows the students have read)?