© 2018

Detective Fiction and the Problem of Knowledge

Perspectives on the Metacognitive Mystery Tale

  • Takes a new and innovative approach to address aspects of the mystery tale that have not been discussed previously

  • Ranges across the work of a wide variety of both canonical and lesser-known authors

  • Contributes to the burgeoning field of literary urban studies


Part of the Crime Files book series (CF)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xii
  2. The Problem of Knowledge

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Antoine Dechêne
      Pages 3-11
    3. Antoine Dechêne
      Pages 45-86
  3. From the flâneur to the Stalker

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 87-87
    2. Antoine Dechêne
      Pages 89-106
    3. Antoine Dechêne
      Pages 107-147
    4. Antoine Dechêne
      Pages 149-190
  4. The Grotesque

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 191-191
    2. Antoine Dechêne
      Pages 219-245
    3. Antoine Dechêne
      Pages 247-272
  5. The Sublime

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 273-273
    2. Antoine Dechêne
      Pages 275-302
    3. Antoine Dechêne
      Pages 303-323
  6. In Lieu of a Conclusion

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 325-325
    2. Antoine Dechêne
      Pages 327-337
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 339-347

About this book


This book establishes the genealogy of a subgenre of crime fiction that Antoine Dechêne calls the metacognitive mystery tale. It delineates a corpus of texts presenting 'unreadable' mysteries which, under the deceptively monolithic appearance of subverting traditional detective story conventions, offer a multiplicity of motifs – the overwhelming presence of chance, the unfulfilled quest for knowledge, the urban stroller lost in a labyrinthine text – that generate a vast array of epistemological and ontological uncertainties. Analysing the works of a wide variety of authors, including Edgar Allan Poe, Jorge Luis Borges, and Henry James, this book is vital reading for scholars of detective fiction. 


Detective Flaneur Edgar Allan Poe Nathaniel Hawthorne Herman Melville Henry James Mystery tale City Urban Iain Sinclair Paul Auster Roberto Bolaño Franz Kafka Samuel Beckett Jorge Luis Borges British and Irish Literature

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of LiègeLiègeBelgium

About the authors

Antoine Dechêne holds a PhD from the Université de Liège, Belgium. His research deals with all aspects of the metaphysical detective story in the USA and in France. He is co-editor with Michel Delville of the first volume dedicated to the genre in French: Le Thriller métaphysique d'Edgar Allan Poe à nos jours (2016). 

Bibliographic information


 “Using examples from the works of writers and artists as diverse as Poe, Melville, Beckett, Borges, Bolaño, and Auster and confronting them with old and recent theories about the goals and methods of governing "mainstream" detective fiction, Antoine Dechêne's impressive volume takes us beyond a consideration of the detective genre per se into a reconsideration of neglected domains of thinking which only a full confrontation with the genre’s diversity and plasticity can reveal.” (Michel Delville, Université de Liège, Belgium)

“Daring and ambitious in its approach, up to date and cutting edge in its scholarship, and always solid and frequently brilliant in its analysis, Detective Fiction and the Problem of Knowledge will make a significant contribution to popular culture studies generally and crime fiction studies in particular, as it convincingly argues for the superiority of the term metacognitive mystery tale over metaphysical detective story.” (John Gruesser, Sam Houston State University, USA)