Description of the Genre

At a very basic level, crime fiction has three elements. A crime is committed, there is an investigation into the crime, and then some resolution to the investigation. From here, there can be many twists and turns that add extra drama. The criminal could be revealed very early on, with the suspense increasing as the detective draws closer. Or the reader might find out who the killer is on the very last page. The author might give away lots of clues, or might not give many at all, with lots of tricks – red herrings – along the way to send the reader off course.

Every crime story has a puzzle that engages the reader. We are trying to work out the answer as we go along. Sometimes we do this at the same time as the detective. At other times, we find out right at the end. This is the essential part of this genre that makes it gripping and compelling.

The characters in crime fiction can be great fun to create. They often touch upon well-used clichés, such as the over-worked policeman, the nosy old lady, the amateur private detective, the scary and intimidating mobster. All of these character types feature heavily in these stories.

Text 1: Lost for Words by Richard Baines

a) Questions
Read the Lost for Words extract below and complete the following questions in your Reading Journal. Alternatively, you could make your responses more interesting by trying one of these online tools:

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  1. Why does the story end the way it does? What was your reaction on first reading the ending? How has the author innovated with the text structure and what effect does it have on the story?
  2. Who do you think was responsible for the crime?
  3. Look at the first four sentences of this story.What are the ideas that the writer is trying to signpost in these lines that will become clearer later in the story?
b) Discussion
Respond to the following discussion.
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c) Genre Features
Open the Word document below and use Track Changes to complete this activity by using the Highlighting and Comment tool.

How many of these features appear in the story?
  • A protagonist with a shady past
  • A red herring
  • Suspense
  • Descriptive passages to set mood and tone
  • A plot twist
  • Climax - the reveal

d) Creative Writing
Length: 200 – 300 words
Complete the activity below:
Write a fragment of Lost for Words from the perspective of a different character. Consider how the story changes when told through the eyes of either Jenny, Mr Bishop or Mrs Price. You must change the language to show which character you have chosen. Each of these characters would see things in a different way and describe them using different langauge. Show this through your language choices. You could even alter the spelling of certain words to represent different accents or styles of speech.

Text 2: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

a) Questions
sherlock_holmes.jpgRead the following extract from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and complete the questions below in your Reading Journal. Alternatively, you could make your responses more interesting by trying one of the online tools listed above.

1. Without looking up definitions on your computer or in a dictionary, what do you think these words and terms mean?
  • Slop shop
  • Opium den
  • Fantastic
  • Lack-lustre
  • Waxed or waned
  • Brazier of burning charcoal

2. Using the highlighter function in Word or your stylus, re-read the passage and highlight the descriptive words and phrases. List three visual images which stand out to you. How do the descriptive words and phrases add to the mood of this scene?

3. If you were the writer of this passage, you could make anything happen next, but the language and descriptive passages seem to suggest what will happen next. What do you think will happen? Identify sentences or words in this document that suggest what will happen next.

4. Describe a particular setting in a way which makes it appear unwholesome, dangerous, threatening or just plain scary. Use at least two of the senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) to help you create a vivid description. Remember to choose adjectives carefully. What other language features can you use to create a stereotypically scary setting?
Length: 6-10 sentences
Some suggested settings:
  • The local tip
  • Camberwell Train Station, Camberwell Skate Park or Carey at night time
  • A deserted shopping centre
  • The Bourke Street Mall
  • A carnival after closing time
  • A forest

b) Creative Writing
Length: 200 – 300 words
Rewrite the first paragraph of the Sherlock Holmes piece with a different atmosphere. Instead of threatening and mysterious it could be welcoming and friendly or adventurous and exciting.

We'll post some of the best ones here:

Recommended Crime Fiction

Blue Murder by Ken Catran

Public Enemy by Anthony Horowitz

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by A C Doyle

All that Remains by Patricia Cornwell

The Poet by Michael Connelly

Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer

Jade Draper Mysteries by Simon Higgins

Forget Me Not by Anne Cassidy

The Song of an Innocent Bystander by Ian Bone

Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs

Posse by Kate Welshman

The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon

Greed by Chris Ryan

The Janna Mysteries by Felicity Pulman

Dr Id by Simon Higgins

Gold Bug and other Tales by Edgar Allen Poe

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie