The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle (1892),

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The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle (1892),

The Ostler by Wilkie Collins (1855), and The Signalman by Charles

Dickens (1864). All of these are mystery stories

How do the writers try to create excitement, mystery and suspense?

Which of the stories you have read was the most successful and why?

I have chosen to write about three stories – ‘The Adventure of the

Speckled Band’ by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle (1892), ‘The Ostler’ by

Wilkie Collins (1855), and ‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens (1864).

All of these are mystery stories that have been written in a similar

way, with classic ‘mystery and suspense’ techniques. These stories

were all written in the nineteenth century, and reflect this period

with the use of old language and settings. Also the use of horses &

carriage and the disadvantage of there being no electricity. Many

archaisms are used in all three of the stories and these reflect the

period. Nobody would use such language today, which also helps to draw

the reader into the story because the reader has to concentrate on the

complicated language and long sentences.

The narrative structure in ‘The Signalman’ and ‘The Ostler’ is very

similar, with both narrators reliving the stories and telling them to

the reader, where as, in the ‘Speckled Band’, the reader seems to be

being told the story as it happens. In the ‘Speckled Band’ even though

he is speaking from a time after the events of the story Dr Watson

tells us the story as it happens so you feel included, as though you

are there in the story with the characters. This also makes the story

seem more believable – factual rather than fictional – that it

actually happened and that Dr Watson was there. This allows us to

share his thoughts and feelings to further include us in the story.

For example ‘I find many tragic, some comic, a large number merely

strange.’ This shows us Dr Watson’s feelings. Sherlock Holmes is one

of the main characters in this story and he is very well known for his

success as a detective. He is visited by a young woman (Helen Stoner),

who needs his help after the very sudden and unexplained death of her

sister, as she is worried for her own safety. This character actually

narrates the first part of the story (after Watson’s introduction),

while she tells Sherlock Holmes of the unsolved mystery. Her story is

told in first person narrative so the reader relives the time when her

sister dies. Pathetic fallacy is again used to create an ideal setting

for a murder.
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