"In (chess), where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound. The attention is here called powerfully into play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is committed resulting in injury or defeat. The possible moves being not only manifold but involute, the chances of such oversights are multiplied; and in nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative rather than the more acute player who conquers."
Written preface, by the narrator, of Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the most renowned characters of fiction in his London detective Sherlock Holmes. The socially withdrawn genius appeared in a total of sixty stories, beginning in 1887 and met with increasing popularity by his London audience. The overwhelming majority of the tales stay true to the same format, wherein Holmes's closest, and perhaps only, friend Dr. John Watson is the narrator sharing the tales of Sherlock Holmes and his astounding capacity for deduction while assisting in the solving of crimes in and around London.
What is less well known about the most famous detective is that he was not the prototype for the genre. That honor would fall to Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin, created by American author Edgar Allan Poe in his 1841 publication of The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Dupin is introduced to us by the nameless narrator of the story after a brief treatise (which Poe's narrator goes so far as to protest he is not making) on the differences between analysis and ingenuity. We find Dupin to be a reclusive man, given to vices of the intellect - preferring to read in his study to great hours of the evening before even leaving his home each day.
The story at hand concerns one such evening when, after a walk through town at eveningtime, the duo pick up an evening edition of a local newspaper which contained an article concerning "Extraordinary Murders" in the Rue Morgue, a district of Paris. Dupin becomes quite entranced with the story, occupying himself over the next few days by noting slight and small differences between various printed testimonies. Finally Dupin asks his friend to accompany him to the crime scene itself, the inspection of which leads Dupin to deduce the truth of how the murders could have came to have been committed, all the while without violating any of the corroborated testimony previously given by witnesses in the Rue Morgue.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue is, to be certain, a story from the 19th century. It lacks the efficiency of language which modern literature has become enamored with - which may speak more true about modern audiences than modern authors. The tale is a rather straightforward one, progressing quite linearly along the following schema: preface of Dupin's character, introduction of Dupin, inciting incident (reading the newspaper article together), gathering facts, solving the case at hand, presenting the evidence which led to the deductions allowing for such a solution. There is a quaint appeal to the deliberate pacing of the story, and the restrained approach by which evidence is revealed to the audience. The story is a resounding success, particularly for having been one of the first of its kind, with one bothersome exception: its ending is a twist.
Everyone has read a twist ending. The plot is building, the characters developing, and the entire tale is presenting itself as one thing, it has you leaning left, and then POW! it jumps to the right as the author seemingly recalls "Whoa, wait a minute -- this is supposed to be a horror story!" To this allegation, The Murders in the Rue Morgue must plead no contest. It is most certainly guilty of such a twist ending, to the extent where a first time reader will not solve the mystery based on the evidence revealed prior to Dupin sharing his solution with the narrator. However, it is found to be a no-fault conclusion by this humble reviewer, as including such a large leap of logic in this story served as testament to the radical intellect of Dupin. This testament, speculatively, could be what made Dupin popular enough to return in two further stories: The Mystery of Marie Rogêt in 1842 and later The Purloined Letter in 1844.