On 20 April 1841, Edgar Allen Poe‘s story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was published in Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine, where the writer was working as an editor. He had originally titled it “Murders in the Rue Trianon” but then decided that the new title was better associated with death.
This tale is generally credited as the world’s first modern detective story and the author was paid an additional $56 for it: a high figure if compared to what he earned from publishing the “The Raven” (only $9).
Poe called this short story a “tales of ratiocination”, whose “theme was the exercise of ingenuity in detecting a murderer.”
Although mysteries were not a new literary form, the writer was the first to introduce a character that solved the mystery by analysing the facts, outlining elements that future writers would adapt and develop.
The story describes the extraordinary “analytical power” used by C. Auguste Dupin to solve a series of murders in Paris. Dupin is not a professional detective but he decides to investigate the murders for his personal amusement, using “ratiocination” to solve an apparently inexplicable mystery.
He became the prototype for many future fictional detectives, including Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Like Holmes, Dupin is accompanied by an assistant, who serves as narrator, but, unlike Dr. Watson, he remains nameless.
The French detective appeared in two other stories “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” and “The Purloined Letter”, establishing another feature of the detective genre: the recurring character.