In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reviews Kipling’s foray into the mystery genre with a psychic detective story
Previously, I’ve blogged about the intriguing micro-genre of the psychic detective story, a crossover short story genre which fuses the ghost story or weird tale with the mystery, or detective fiction. Arguably beginning with the Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1869 story ‘Green Tea’, the form was pioneered by the late Victorian writing team of E. and H. Heron with their Flaxman Low stories, but became really popular during the Edwardian era, with characters such as Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence and, shortly after this, William Hope Hodgson’s Thomas Carnacki and Alice and Claude Askew’s Aylmer Vance.
The genre never exactly attracted a plethora of writers, in the way that the out-and-out detective story did, following the phenomenal success of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. But it did attract the attention of some more famous and talented writers than the ones already mentioned. Perhaps the most famous of them all was Rudyard Kipling.