I’ve decided to format this like a Sherlock post because, well, because it read exactly like a Sherlock story. Dupin acted just like Sherlock, with all his know-it-all, his assistant/friend was the narrator and baffled by his conclusions, just like Watson (though this narrator wasn’t named and wasn’t much of a character. At least Watson is a doctor and helps Sherlock in some way besides just being someone to show off to. And the end was just as weird as most of the Sherlock stories I’ve read.
Summary: So the unnamed narrator has been hanging out with C. Auguste Dupin because they are both weird and like the same things. Then they hear of a grisly murder where now clues were left behind. Two women were killed; one had her head sliced almost completely off, and the other was strangled and stuffed up the chimney. All the doors and windows had been locked from the inside; attackers were heard by witnesses but not seen. Dupin looks over the scene and figures it all out. An orangutan (yes, a big red/orange ape) had escaped from its owner and climbed in the window, killed the women and then fled out the window, with the window closing and latching behind it.
Sherlock Rating: So, it wasn’t a real murder–just another reason to have laws against owning wild animals. It wasn’t the worst Sherlock-ish story I’ve read, though, so it doesn’t get the lowest rating. I think today’s forensics teams would have figured it out just as quickly. This would have been an interesting episode of Bones or Castle, that’s for sure. Plus it gets bonus points for being the (debated) first murder mystery.
Mystery Story Convention: Well, as I said, this is where all the murder mystery magic happened. It is the start of all the mystery stories, so it creates the conventions. Forensics plays a big role–he knows it’s not a human attacker because of the bruising pattern on one of the women’s necks. Also proper crime scene investigation–the one nail was broken off in the window so it only appeared to be nailed down. And the twist ending, of course. I was kind of expecting it to be this circus performer they’d talked about at the beginning, but that actually had no relevance. The first red herring? You’d think for the first mystery story they wouldn’t have needed to play the “it’s not even a human, or a murder” card as the solution. None of the other solutions had yet been overdone because nothing else had been written yet.