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“The Advantages of the Setting of the Country-House in Detective-Stories”

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  1. Introduction
  2. Isolation as one of the advantages a detective story writer gains
  3. Loyalty and faithfulness to the household
  4. Lucid descriptions and Sir Henry Baskerville's death
  5. Conclusion
  6. Bibliography

The author of either a novel or a short story has one main purpose: to dazzle the reader. However, dazzling the reader is a difficult process because we don't all have the same attention spans, or have the same interests, or even enjoy the same words on the pages that other reader's find enjoyable. It's a phenomenon of sorts, when an author attains such remarkable success in the eyes of the reading public; one has to remark to oneself: ?Why does everyone want to read this particular author's work?' In short, the reader's were dazzled by the presentation of characters, the situation, the consequence, the author's careful manipulation of certain details to provide those nearly elusive underlying themes. Such authors as Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle enjoyed staggering success with populations across the world ? but how did these detective-story writers do it? What was it that these author's possessed for them to seemingly somehow conjure millions of people to read their body of work? In such stories as Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, they convey the author's mastery of tension. In a detective story, it is important for the author to pique the reader's interest, and then lure them along with the correct amount of tension that doesn't reveal too much, but just enough to move the story along. In both stories by Christie and Doyle, the author's use a specific setting of the isolated country-house to create the effects of tension. The country-house is inherently thought of as being inhabited by noble, wealthy aristocrats, who have a staff of servants to run the household.

[...] Detective stories can be set in a busy city, perhaps that of London in the story, A Scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle. However, that is not to say that a detective-story is better, or worse, if it isn't set within a country-house; it alludes to the tremendous advantages that it holds for the writer. For one, the isolation allows the author to limit the number of characters (and suspects). In Agatha Christie's novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, both authors have nine main characters that are involved with the action of the story, but swirling behind, almost in anonymity, are the servants. [...]

[...] The idea of the country-house itself establishes the nobility of the family. A country- house can be bought, but it is usually something handed down from generation to generation within a family. There is an aura of aristocracy surrounding the lone, isolated country-house, because who else could afford a large mansion in a spacious landscape? Conan Doyle details the interior and exterior of the household to provide the reader with an intriguing glimpse at the nobility that resides in such lush country-houses. [...]

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