Old examples of the crime genre from the late 19th century are still popular today mainly because of the example set by the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Some of my favourite examples are "The speckled band", "the man with the twisted lip", "The adventure of the blue carbuncle." and "The red-headed league". I think that Conan Doyle's stories have been as popular as they are because of the way they have been structured. Starting with the speckled band, it presents the mystery in the title itself. Making the reader wonder what the "speckled band" really is?
The Speckled Band is a story about a girl named Julia Stoner who dies two weeks before her wedding. Her sister Helen Stoner has just got her self engaged and is worried that something might happen to her as well, because she doesn't believe that her sister's death is an accident. The two sister's step father Dr.Roylott an "aristocratic pauper", a man "absolutely uncontrollable in his anger" is a favourite suspect of wrongdoing.
In those days women depended strongly on men unlike the twenty first century. This dependency is shown in the Speckled Band when Helen Stoner describes her engagement as an escape from her morose step father's company and starting a newish life with a different type of dependency on her husband. In the man with the twisted lip, Kate Whitney goes to Dr.Watsons house to ask for help to bring her husband home from the opium den because he had been missing for two days. She knew he was at the opium den in the furthest east of the city. " How could she, a young and timid woman, make her way into such a place, and pluck her husband out from among the ruffians" leaving Kate Whitney to relie on Dr.Watson as a man and as a doctor to bring her husband home.
I think suspense plays a very important part in making the crime genre popular today. It hooks the reader to the story. In the Speckled Band, suspense is built up to a climax until near the end when Sherlock Holmes and Dr.Watson are close to finding out who or what killed Julia Stoner. All the little clues are just about to come together but they have to get to spend the night in Miss Stoner's bedroom. The sense of danger with all of Dr.Roylott's wild animals around and with Dr.Roylott being such an irrational man and with darkness upon them "have your pistol ready in case we shall need it", I think that the sense of danger adds to the ever building suspense. Danger also represents heroism and bravery, which many readers themselves would like to be, which adds to the popularity of the book.
The sense of danger is also presented in the red-headed league when Sherlock Holmes finds himself unravelling the plans of a master conman the best in his profession, just as Sherlock Holmes is the best in his profession. In my opinion. The sense of danger is present when Sherlock Holmes is about to prove to the Scotland Yard officer and the bank official that Mr.Jabez Wilson's assistant is the notorious thief that Scotland Yard have been trying to catch and his next job was at the bank. As thieves are known to be dangerous "These are daring men, and though we shall take them at a disadvantage they may do us some harm, unless we are careful. If they fire, Watson have no compunction about shooting them down"
Conan Doyle's use of language also build's up the tension especially in the red-headed league when Sherlock Holmes and Dr.Watson ones again find themselves in a dark room waiting to put all the clues together. "Holmes shot the slide across the front of his lantern, and left us in pitch darkness- such an absolute darkness as I have before experienced. The smell of hot metal remained to assure us that the light was still there, ready to flash out…." Conan Doyle describes every little detail, down to the sense of smell, to create an image in the reader's head.
Conan Doyle also uses similes and metaphors as literary devises in the Man with the twisted lip to describe the amount of money Hugh Boone a "professional beggar". He describes it as "a small rain of charity descends into the greasy leather cap" "the harvest which he has reaped in a short time" These chosen words make the beggar sound very rich as well as very lazy. Those were some examples of the metaphors. He also used similes such as "Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a lighthouse." This made her sound like a very reliable person as well as a good shoulder to cry on.
In conclusion, I think that the crime genre has a certain "x" factor as well as Conan Doyle's ability to build up suspense to a climax that makes the crime genre and Conan Doyle so popular even today. The "x" factor is the unique identity of Conan Doyle's style of writing. Many authors after and may be even before have written crime or mystery stories but none of them have their own identity in the way that Sherlock Holmes books do. A good measure of the popularity of Conan Doyle's writing is the creation of Sherlock Holmes, who through the years has been sown into the identity of British culture.