The Classic Genre of Mystery Fiction

Whodunit is a classic genre of mystery fiction that has been popular for over a century. The term “Whodunit” comes from the question at the heart of every story in this genre: who did it? These stories present the reader with a crime, usually a murder, and a group of suspects. The challenge is to solve the crime by figuring out which suspect is the culprit.

Origins of Whodunit

Edgar Allan Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue” in 1841 traced back the Whodunit genre to the mid-19th century. This story featured an amateur detective, C. Auguste Dupin, who uses his powers of deduction to solve a baffling crime. The success of this story led to a boom in the mystery genre, with writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers becoming household names.

Key Features of Whodunit

The fiction’s stories typically involve a murder or other serious crime and a group of suspects with motives and opportunities to commit the crime. An amateur or professional detective then uses logic and reasoning to solve the mystery in these stories. The detective often has a sidekick or assistant who helps with the investigation. And there are usually plenty of clues and red herrings to keep the reader guessing.

Subgenres of Whodunit

There are several subgenres of Whodunit, including cozy mysteries, hardboiled mysteries, and police procedurals. Cozy mysteries are typically set in small towns or villages. Hardboiled mysteries, on the other hand, are usually set in urban environments and feature a tough, cynical detective who operates outside the law. Police procedurals focus on the procedures and techniques used by law enforcement officials to solve crimes.

Whodunit in Popular Culture

The stories have remained popular throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, with countless books, movies, and TV shows based on the genre. Some of the most popular examples include Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” series, and the TV series “Murder, She Wrote.”


Whodunit is a classic genre of mystery fiction that has been popular for over a century. These stories feature a crime, a group of suspects, and a detective who uses logic and reasoning to solve the mystery. With its subgenres and enduring popularity in popular culture, Whodunit is sure to continue captivating audiences for generations to come.

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