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The Range Of Search: A Key to Understanding (and Writing) Mystery Fiction

by Joe Benevento

JosephBenevento (5 of 15)In Edgar Allan Poe’s third and final story featuring C. Auguste Dupin, “The Purloined Letter,” Dupin explains to the narrator why the police were unable to find the letter in question, even  though it was left in plain sight (though somewhat disguised) on the culprit’s desk: “Had the letter been deposited within the range of their search, these fellows would, beyond a question, have found it.”   The Paris police had undertaken a ludicrously exhaustive search of the Minister D’s premises and person, always seeking the stolen letter in the most ingenious of hidden nooks or hollowed out chair legs or other “secret hiding places” of that variety.  Since they could not themselves conceive of anyone being so stupid (or, in this case, so smart) as to place the precious letter right where anyone could see it, they were almost physically and certainly mentally disabled from seeing it.  However, because he knew what kind of thinker the Minister was (both Mathematician and Poet) and because he knew the Minister comprehended how the Police would approach uncovering the letter, Dupin was able to retrieve the letter without much complication. Continue reading The Range Of Search: A Key to Understanding (and Writing) Mystery Fiction