In this essay I will be looking at three stories. They are ‘The Red Room’ by H. G. Wells, ‘The Speckled Band’ by Arthur Conan Doyle and ‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens. I will be explaining the aspects of plot, tension, setting, character and language that make a good mystery story. The plot of a mystery story is very important. In ‘The Speckled Band,’ Julia Stoner and Helen Stoner are sisters. Julie Stoner died horribly a couple of years ago just before she was about to get married. Before she died she heard a low whistle on a regular basis.

The reason for her death was not found and now the same thing is happening to her sister Helen who is also about to get married. She secretly goes to Sherlock Holmes to find some answers about how her sister died and also because she thinks she is going to die. Helen decides to go to Sherlock Holmes because he could crack every case and always defeated evil. He was an amateur detective which means that he was not a member of the London Police Force. Victorians really liked Sherlock Homes. This was because he could solve every case and he could defeat evil.

Prostitution, murder, drug abuse and public hangings were very common in London at the time. Jack The Ripper who was a very famous murderer. He went around killing women. All of this made people feel very unsafe. They wanted Sherlock Holmes to become a real detective. Tension and suspense which is another aspect of a good mystery story is built up in ‘The Red Room. ‘ The man who is unnamed is twenty- eight years old and is sceptical about ghosts. He says, “I can assure you, that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me. ” This shows the reader that he is not afraid of ghosts and shows that he is confident.

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Also in ‘The Red Room’ tension is built when the man is going to the room. “And a shadow came sweeping up after me. ” The word ‘sweeping,’ suggests that he is being chased showing his fear. This increases the tension and will make reader want to read on. The shadows are personified. “And the shadows seemed to take another step towards me. ” This suggests that he is being intimidated or attacked. The idea of speed is shown with a simile. “Darkness closed upon me like the shutting of an eye. ” ‘Shutting,’ suggests that the darkness happened quickly. This is another way tension and suspense is built up.

Darkness is also presented to be deadly. “Wrapped about me in a stifling embrace. ” ‘Wrapped,’ ‘stifling,’ and ’embrace,’ suggest suffocation. Tension and suspense is also created when the man describes his shadows. “And my candle flared and made the shadows cower and quiver. The words ‘cower,’ and ‘quiver,’ are representing his fear. The setting is important in a mystery story. The setting in ‘The Signalman’ is mysterious. The words ‘dripping wet,’ ‘solitary,’ and ‘forbidding’ are used to describe the mysterious setting. These words suggest it is an uncomfortable place. Forbidding,’ makes us think that is it a dangerous place because it is a forbidden place to go to. The setting is also described to be ‘depressing. ‘ This shows that it is a miserable and lonely place to be.

The words, ‘dripping wet,’ show that the atmosphere is damp which gives the impression that it isn’t a very nice place to be working. It is also described to be like a dungeon which gives the idea of it being a big place. In the 1860’s railways and trains were new inventions. They were just beginning to spread across the nation, which made it ‘cutting edge technology. Most people were scared of them at the time. A ghost story set here would be interesting because people at that time wouldn’t expect a ghost story to be set there as they were very new. Characters are also important in mystery stories. The character of Sherlock Holmes is very interesting.

Victorians really liked Sherlock Holmes and even though he wasn’t he wasn’t a real detective he could solve every case. In ‘The Speckled Band,’ Sherlock Holmes is shown to be very intelligent. “His professional investigations, rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions yet always founded on a logical basis. This shows that he can work quickly and can solve the case easily. The word ‘professional,’ shows that he can solve the mystery as good as a real detective.

Sherlock Holmes is described as being observant. ‘I observe the second half of a return ticket… you must have left early… ‘ The word ‘must,’ shows that Sherlock Holmes knows that he is right. This shows that he is very confident. The language used in mystery stories has an effect on the reader. In ‘The Speckled Band’ Helen Stoner says, “It is fear, Mr Holmes. It is terror. ” This makes the reader want to find out more and read on to find out what is going to happen next.

Also in ‘The Speckled Band’ mystery is created when Helen describes Julia’s death. ‘Her face all drawn and grey, with restless frightened eyes, like those of some haunted animal. ‘ This is a simile. It creates tension because the reader wants to know why Julia is getting attacked. Helen describes when she discovered Julia’s death. ‘As I ran down the passage, my sister’s door was unlocked, and revolved slowly upon it hinges. I stared at it horror- stricken, not knowing what was about to issue from it.

‘ This is very effective because the word ‘slowly,’ shows something bad is going to happen. It increases tension because the reader has to wait. Horror- stricken,’ shows that Helen is frightened. Also in ‘The Speckled Band’ Roylott is described to be evil. ‘His deep- set, bile- shot eyes, and his high, thin, fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey. ‘ This makes the reader think that Roylott is a villain. Here he is being compared to an old bird of prey. A bird of prey of bird is seen as being evil.

The Baboon is being described to hideous. ‘Out from a clump of laurel bushes there darted what seemed to be a hideous and distorted child, who threw itself upon the grass with writhing limbs and then ran swiftly across the lawn into the darkness. Here the baboon is being described as being hideous which makes the reader think that the whole house is hideous. In ‘The Red Room,’ fear is described as being a real. ‘In the dust it (fear) creeps along the corridor and follows you. ‘ The word ‘follows,’ shows that fear is alive and it can move. This will make the reader want to read on because it makes the story more interesting because fear is being described as a living thing which makes it exciting. It also builds tension.

The language in ‘The Signalman,’ is effective to the reader as the reader never actually finds out the name of any of the characters. They are always been referred as ‘I,’ ‘His,’etc. In conclusion I think what is essential to a good mystery story are all five aspects, which are plot, tension, setting, character and language. I think this because they all make a mystery story interesting. The language used in a mystery story is essential as it creates tension as do the other aspects. The setting is also important because it gives an idea to the reader about what the story is going to be about.


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