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‘Crossing the “Shadow Frontier”’: The Criminal Underworld in Detective Fiction from the Victorians to the Golden Age.

Esme Miskimmin

Popular conceptions of a criminal underworld, a separate fraternity of villains with its own rules and hierarchy, have existed for some time and have recently caught the public’s imagination once more with the emergence in the late 90s of films such as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Between the opposing worlds –- that of the detective and the society he is protecting, and that of the criminal — there are boundaries, both literal and metaphorical. In terms of geographical space this often involves a network of alleyways, staircases, cellars and darkened doorways, beyond or beneath the everyday spaces of London. In more abstract, cultural, terms this involves a popular conceptualisation of this world and its inhabitants as markedly different, morally and occasionally physiologically, which helps us to draw the lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’, easily distinguishing between two worlds and their citizens. This paper seeks to explore the representations of the criminal underworld in early detective fiction, and the changing nature of both the underworld and the boundary as the genre reaches its ‘Golden Age’ in the interwar years.

In terms of crime writing, the concept found a place in the popular imagination in the eighteenth century and the criminal ‘underworld’ of London as a real or imagined space has been a repeated motif in the genre of detective fiction since its conception in the nineteenth century. Indeed, critical histories of this genre tend to agree that the rapid growth of the city is a fundamental factor in its origins and development. Reginald Hill suggests that the ‘relatively recent phenomenon’ of detective fiction:

… could not begin to exist till society had made a significant lurch in the direction of the modern, which is to say when it started to be scientific rather than superstitious, bourgeois rather than aristocratic, [and] urban rather than pastoral …[1]

Some of the most significant narratives in the genre’s development are those concerning Newgate prison, then London’s chief penitentiary. The publishers of John Villette’s, The Annals of Newgate; or The Malefactors’ Register (1776) quickly saw its money-making potential and produced the penny series of ‘Newgate Crimes’. The sensationalist nature of their content ensured their popularity, and the publishers sustained this by inventing new and macabre crimes to report when the supply of facts failed. These penny publications are significant in two ways: firstly, in capturing the public imagination and creating a desire to read about crime they contributed to the origins of a whole genre, and, secondly, they clearly established the idea of the criminal underworld in the minds of the reading public as people envisaged a separate, other domain.

These stories also document the shift in narrative focus away from the thieves and towards the thief-takers, largely due to the establishment and development of the police force in the rapidly increasing urban areas. This can be seen in the various popular police memoirs, first in France with Les Mémoirs de Vidocq (1828-1829), and then in Britain with The Recollections of a Detective Police-Officer (1856).[2] As Haycraft argues, ‘there could be no detective stories (and there were none) until there were detectives’, and, at the outset, the detective is an urban figure.[3] Significantly, the sense of the criminal ‘other’ in these stories is arguably heightened by the fact that the police themselves inhabit a world separate from that of everyday society. Their function, enforcing the law and tackling those who break it, places them outside of society in a world which directly opposes and therefore reinforces that of the criminals, a factor that is sustained with emergence of the private detective in the first true detective stories. In fact, whether they are police or private eye, there seems to be a need for the detective, also, to be in some ways ‘other’. A traditional feature of the fictional detective is that they are different from, or uninvolved with, the rest of society, because of intelligence, disposition, or class, for example. Perhaps it is this which allows the detective to transgress the boundaries between the normal and the criminal dimensions. This trait of separateness is present in the acknowledged ‘first’ literary detective, Poe’s Dupin, who ‘had ceased to know or be known in Paris’,[4] and also in his more famous London successor, Sherlock Holmes. Holmes deliberately sets himself apart from society; he is a solitary, detached observer who involves himself very little with his fellow men, except in the course of his investigations.

The Sherlock Holmes stories are dependent on the popular notion of the criminal underworld. Many of them contain references to ‘leagues’ and ‘gangs’: the gang of bank robbers in the story of ‘The Red-Headed League’ (1891), for example, or Holmes’ arch enemy, Professor Moriarty, who is the head of a particularly successful and secretive gang, as Holmes himself acknowledges: ‘He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organiser of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city.’[5] Holmes’ efforts to catch these criminals involve him entering the underworld that they inhabit, travelling through the intricate geography of London that, as he says, is ‘a hobby of [his] to have an exact knowledge of’.[6] This capacity to navigate the streets is argued by Raymond Williams to be a fundamental aspect of Holmes’ literary conception: as ‘the opaque complexity of modern city life is represented by crime’, then ‘the urban detective … begins to emerge as a significant and ratifying figure: the man who can find his way through the fog, who can penetrate the intricacies of the streets’.[7] Through the narrative voice of the faithful Watson, Doyle carefully maps the streets and buildings of Victorian London describing how they ‘[travelled] by the Underground as far as Aldersgate’ or how ‘[their] footfalls rang out crisply as [they] swung through the Doctor’s quarter, Wimpole-Street, Harley-Street, and so through Wigmore-Street into Oxford-Street.'[8] This precision gives verisimilitude to the narrative, but it also helps to establish the difference between the respectable London of the Holmes’ stories’ readership and the underworld that is inhabited by the criminals, which is described in similarly carefully detail, but contains no references to specific streets, buildings or landmarks. Instead, Watson describes a bewildering world of enclosed spaces and shadows, clearly reinforcing the idea of the ‘under’ world, a sub-space beneath the recognisable map of the metropolis, where ‘the thick fog [rolls] down between the dun-coloured houses, and the opposing windows loomed like dark shapeless blurs through the heavy yellow wreaths.'[9]

In order to pursue his investigations, Holmes has to enter into this shadowy sub-world, crossing the boundaries between the two separate spaces. It must be acknowledged here that Holmes does make what might be described as mental forays into the criminal environment — after all, Holmes, like Dupin, is a cerebral detective, a master of ratiocination — and he calls upon his vast knowledge of the underworld and its inhabitants as he sits in his room and contemplates the evidence that he has collated. The gathering of this evidence, however, very much involves action; the boundary must be physically crossed, either when the inhabitants of the underworld, such as the Baker Street irregulars, come to him, or more often, when he goes out to them, often in disguise. The descriptions of the world that the criminals inhabit reinforce the idea of its separateness from the rest of society, a separateness not dissimilar to that of Holmes himself, who lives ‘above’ the city in his flat meaning that any movement into it involves progression downwards, increasing our sense of the ‘under’, the idea that the criminals are not just metaphorically, but literally, beneath London society.

One interesting feature of Doyle’s descriptions of the criminal quarters of London is that they draw on older, classical representations of underworlds, perhaps creating a link between the then-new popular genre and the more traditional literary past and establishing Holmes in a tradition of katabatic heroes, but certainly contributing to the other-wordliness of the criminal dimension. In The Sign of Four, for example, Watson describes how, on one foray into the un-mapped part of London:

… the lamps were but misty splotches of diffused light which threw a feeble circular glimmer upon the slimy pavement. The yellow glare from the shop-windows streamed out into the steamy, vaporous air and threw a murky, shifting radiance across the crowded thoroughfare. There was, to my mind, something eerie and ghostlike in the endless procession of faces which flitted across these narrow bars of light …[10]

This description of the streets certainly gives a sense of a physical underworld with the ‘feeble’ and ‘murky’ light and the notion of decay conjured by the words ‘slimy’ and ‘yellow’, all reinforcing in the reader’s mind the sense of ‘otherness’. The echoes of classical literary representations of hell are clearly evident. In Canto IV of ‘Hell’, for example, Dante describes the dark and fetid nature of the underworld, the ‘dolorous chasm of the pit’, which is ‘deep, dense and by no faintest glimmer lit’.[11] The lack of light in the parts of London Holmes visits whilst investigating is an idea frequently repeated, as are types of location such as passages, alleyways and cellars, all contributing to the idea of an enclosed and separate sub-space.

Doyle’s description of the ‘steamy vaporous air’ also echoes Ovid’s account of the underworld in Metamorphosis:

Down to the underworld, where sluggish Styx
Exhales his misty vapours. By that path
New ghosts, the duly buried dead, descend.
There in wan and wintry wilderness
The new wraiths grope to find the way that leads
To Hades city …[12]

A parallel can also be seen between Ovid’s ‘wraiths’ and the ‘eerie and ghostlike’ figures that Watson describes. These tortured souls, the inhabitants of the London underworld, are a familiar feature of Holmes’ London. In the short story ‘The Man With the Twisted Lip’, Watson finds Holmes in disguise in an opium den. Once again, there is a clear sense of descent: Watson enters the den via ‘a steep flight of steps leading to a black gap like the mouth of a cave’ and is confronted with a hellish vision:

Through the gloom one could catch a glimpse of bodies lying in strange fantastic poses, bent knees, heads thrown back and chins pointing upwards, with here and there a dark, lacklustre eye turned upon the new comer Out of the black shadows there glimmered little red circled of light, now bright, now faint, as the burning poison waxed and waned in the bowls of the metal pipes.[13]

The ‘fantastic poses’ seem to suggest torment and the ‘lacklustre’ nature of their eyes implies a kind of living death. Descriptions such as these, common in the Holmes stories, give a clear impression of a nether world beneath the surface of Victorian respectability.

It should be acknowledged, briefly, that not all of Sherlock Holmes’ adversaries belong to this geographical criminal underworld. One or two are individuals without a criminal career or background and who commit crimes for personal motives. In the stories where this is the case, however, there is still a very strong sense of these people’s separation from society: they are still ‘other’ — residents of a more metaphorical underworld. Often this ‘otherness’ is because they are foreign, usually colonial, as in the case of Jonathan Small in The Sign of Four, or sometimes the criminal chooses to remove themselves from the civilising influences of London society, like Dr Roylott in ‘The Speckled Band’, who lives in a lonely house and ‘seldom [comes] out save to indulge in ferocious quarrels with whoever might cross his path.’[14] In Victorian detective fiction, then, the concept of the criminal as a geographically separate entity was clearly established. The reading public had a firm sense of the criminal underworld and even the criminals who did not belong to this geographical underworld were marked as different, and placed firmly outside of ‘normal’ society.

By the time we reach the ‘Golden Age’ of detective fiction, however, the boundaries between the criminal and ordinary worlds are much harder to define. The most significant change is the marked shift to a predominantly rural setting. Whilst there is no space within this paper to address the potential reasons behind the shift, it is interesting to note that for the Victorian detective, Holmes, the rural environment is so markedly ‘other’ that detection is almost impossible, chiefly due to the absence of clearly demarked spaces in which the criminal exists: an idea which Holmes expounds to Watson in ‘The Copper Beeches’, arguing that the ‘vilest of alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside’:

The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness that may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.[15]

In contrast, the Golden-Age rural setting is one in which everyone knows the other inhabitants of their community and in which the existence of any criminal sub-space is implausible.

The idea of the London criminal organisation has not disappeared from detective stories in this era but it is utilised with the acknowledgement of its being something of a cliché or generic stereotype, and therefore when we do come across it there is a often a sense of the author attempting to achieve something new from an old convention or firmly establishing both their own and the reader’s awareness of the cliché through overt intertextuality. In Agatha Christie’s The Seven Dials Mystery, the reader is taken through the investigations of Lady Eileen Brent, otherwise known as ‘Bundle’[16] into the ‘Seven Dials Society’, a seemingly dangerous criminal organisation, only to discover that they are in fact a society of investigators, headed by ‘Superintendent Battle’, who chastises Bundle for her ridiculous notions: ‘I know its common enough in books –- a secret organisation of criminals with a mysterious super-criminal at the head of it that no-one ever sees. That sort of thing may exist in real life, but I can only say that I’ve never come across anything of the sort’.[17] This generic self-awareness, which places the criminal underworld firmly in the realms of fiction, is common in Golden Age detective stories; the conventions of early detective literature such as the underworld of criminal gangs and secret societies are often reinvented or ironically toyed with, much as some modern detective writers revisit or reinvent the conventions of the Golden Age, such as the ‘country house’ setting, or the classic ‘locked room mystery’.

Christie makes use of the underworld motif often in her detective stories, and each time it is given a slight twist, often humourous or fantastical, that emphasises its status as a well-used generic convention or literary motif. An excellent example of this is the short story ‘The Capture of Cerberus’ from the collection The Labours of Hercules. Aptly, the story of Cerberus begins with Hercule Poirot travelling within the literal underworld of the London Underground, a hellish experience, as Christie acknowledges in her description of ‘heat, noise, crowd, contiguity –- the unwelcome pressure of hands, arms, bodies shoulders’, reflecting the tortured individuals of classical narratives but with the bathetic acknowledgement that they are everyday commuters and that one may take an escalator out of hell: ‘Up, thought Poirot, from the Infernal Regions’.[18] Poirot’s investigations then take him to the ‘Hell’ club, the front for a drug dealership.[19] On the surface, ‘Hell’ is an ordinary night-club, inhabited by relatively respectable citizens of London who go there to socialise and dance. Like Doyle, Christie draws on classical and mythological representations, but the eerie and tortured atmosphere is lost as Christie creates an overt and ironically stylised hell, thus rejecting the convenience of a handy ‘other’ space where the detective can go to locate the criminals. Poirot is initially received by ‘a gentleman in red tails’, who takes his coat for him and then gestures for him to descend into hell via a flight of stairs, which are paved with good intentions, such as ‘I meant well…’ and ‘Wipe the slate clean and start afresh …’ (p. 234).

The allusions continue, from the ‘tank of water with scarlet lilies’ that must be crossed by a boat-shaped bridge, to Cerberus himself:

On his left in a kind of marble grotto sat the largest and ugliest and blackest dog Poirot had ever seen … Poirot noticed a decorative basket of small round dog biscuits. They were labelled, ‘A sop for Cerberus’. (p. 234)

Even the decorations in the club run along the same theme: ‘Poirot observed the frescoes more closely. On the wall facing him Orpheus and his jazz band played’ (p. 235). This story demonstrates that, whilst the convention of the criminal underworld still exists in Golden Age detective fiction, it is used self-consciously, with a sense that it is not a realistic notion: the sordid and dark hells of Holmes’ criminal underworld are replaced with Christie’s gaudy and ironic representation because there is no longer a sense of a separate criminal world existing in a place ‘other’ to the everyday world. Instead there is interaction between the inhabitants, the boundaries between the two dimensions become blurred and consequently the criminals are brought closer and society is potentially more at threat from an evil that it cannot see. Gone are the identifiable others, the criminals are instead existing and operating in the public space, using the conventions of social events such as dances or clubs as cover, or they are individuals who seemingly belong in everyday society and whose crimes are hidden behind their apparent ‘normality’.

Most Golden Age detective fiction, urban or rural, actually deals with the latter concept: the individual criminal who commits a crime, usually murder, for a personal reason. These people are not easily identified as ‘other’ and as has already been mentioned, this increases the sense of threat felt by society, demonstrated in the following extract from Sayers’ Gaudy Night:

Harriet kept on asking herself, Which? Which of all these normal and cheerful-looking women had dropped that unpleasant paper in the quad the night before? Because you never knew; and the trouble of not knowing was that you dimly suspected everybody.[20]

The threat in this instance is that, by ‘suspecting everybody’, each member of society is a potential criminal. The desire to be able to locate and blame the ‘other’ in society comes across clearly in several Golden Age texts,[21] for example in Agatha Christie’s Murder is Easy, when the detective, Luke Fitzwilliam asks:

I suppose it’s no good my asking if you’ve a hunch of any kind? There’s no particular individual in Wychwood who gives you a creepy feeling down the spine, or who has strange pale eyes –- or a queer maniacal giggle. Everybody I’ve met in Wychwood appears to me to be eminently sane, respectable and completely ordinary. … [It’s probably] the last person you’d ever suggest -– probably a pillar of society like the bank manager.[22]

It is not possible to identify the criminal by such convenient features: there is no external appearance of separateness, the ‘other’ element of the criminal is beneath their surface, their underworld is a mental, not a physical, terrain, as their criminality inhabits their psychological interior.

This is not only more confusing for the society under threat, but it makes things more difficult for the detective, who cannot step into the criminal underworld to apprehend his quarry. Instead, there are other kinds of boundaries to cross: mental or psychological ones.This increased complexity of defining the underworld and the boundary in Golden Age detective fiction is clearly illustrated in Dorothy L. Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise in which the detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, must cross both physical and psychological boundaries to apprehend the criminals. However, as in ‘The Capture of Cerberus’, the location of these boundaries is complicated by the absence of clearly defined worlds. Briefly: there is a criminal organisation of drug smugglers who do not belong to a clearly defined underworld, but who permeate the world of a respectable advertising agency office and the high-society of the bright young things. There is an individual murderer, who belongs to the everyday world, and whose crime comes about because of his inopportune involvement with the criminal organisation. Boundaries are blurred once more by the inhabitants of the normal world becoming involved in the criminal one and the criminals using a public space for their activities.

In order to investigate, Wimsey must cross several boundaries. The first is essentially cultural: he leaves his aristocratic lifestyle and takes a job at Pym’s advertising agency, becoming ‘one of the world’s workers’ and ‘pulling down four solid quid a week’.[23] This is to investigate the death of one Victor Dean, murdered presumably by an individual in the office. Once this investigation is underway, Dean’s involvement in the drug racket is revealed, and a further world has to be infiltrated, that of the criminals activities within the milieu of the office and that of a well-known group of Bright Young Things. In order to transgress both boundaries, Wimsey, like Holmes, uses a disguise. At Pym’s, he is Death Bredon, an ordinary office worker, but in order to cross from Pym’s to the underworld of drug trafficking, he assumes the role of a harlequin, trading on the drug and gin addled mind of one of its inhabitants, Dian de Momerie, whom he meets at a fancy dress party where class and money help to create a front. The description of the party is evocative of a grotesque and fantastical world, once again with classical nuances, and once again inhabited by a mixture of criminals and people from the ‘normal’ world:

A man with a girl in his arms came reeling past him, flushed and hiccuping with laughter, his leopard-skin tunic half torn from his shoulders and the vine leaves scattering from his hair as he ran. The girl was shrieking like a steam engine. He was a broad-shouldered man, and the muscles of his back gleamed in the moonlight as he swung his protesting burden from him and tossed her, costume and all, into the pool. (p. 62)

The references to the ‘leopard skin’ and the ‘vine leaves’ create the image of a bacchanalian orgy. Wimsey’s choice of disguise, the harlequin, emphasises the fantastical and unreal nature of the underworld that he must penetrate, which is the mind of Dian:

Bredon’s instinct told him to hold fast to Dian de Momerie. She was the guardian of the shadow-frontier; through her, Victor Dean, surely the most prosaic denizen of the garish city of daylight, had stepped into the place of bright flares and black abysses, whose ministers are drink and drugs and its monarch death. (p. 155)

The underworld is no longer physical place that criminals inhabit, instead it is a psychological domain. As the novel progresses, Wimsey features increasingly in Dian’s drug-induced hallucinations, prompting her to confuse his tangible presences with these more intangible ones, revealing her inner thoughts and feelings along with vital clues. Wimsey’s investigations take him into the psychological terrain of one of the criminals: instead of navigating the cellars and alleyways of London’s streets, he must cross the shadow frontier of the human mind. Sayers’ term ‘shadow-frontier’ sums up the new worlds and boundaries of Golden Age detective fiction — they are no longer clearly defined spaces such as those found within the genre’s Victorian origins as both criminals and detective move away from their distinct domains and inhabit the same world as everyone else.


[1] Reginald Hill, ‘A Prehistory’ in Whodunit? A Guide to Crime, Suspense and Spy Fiction, ed. by H.R.F. Keating (London: Winward, 1982), p. 20.

[2] Eugene Francois Vidocq, Les Memois de Vidocq (London: Hunt and Clarke, 1828-29); William Russell, The Recollections of a Detective Police-Officer (London: J.& C. Brown, 1856). #

[3] Howard Haycraft, Murder for Pleasure: The Life and Times of the Detective story, 1st British edn, (London: Windmill Press, 1942), p. 5.

[4] Edgar Allan Poe ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, 1841; repr. in The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings (London: Penguin, 1986), p. 193.

[5] Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘The Final Problem’, 1893; repr. in The Complete Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1975), p. 317.

[6] Doyle ‘The Adventure of the Red-Headed League’. 1891; repr. in The Complete Adventures and Memoirs, p. 38

[7] Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (London: Chatto & Windus, 1973), p. 227.

[8] Doyle, ‘The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle’, 1891; repr. in The Complete Adventures and Memoirs, p. 135.

[9] Doyle ‘The Adventure of the Copper Beeches’, 1892; repr. in The Complete Adventures and Memoirs, p. 230

[10] Doyle, The Sign of Four (1890; repr. London: Penguin, 1982), p. 25.

[11] Dante Aligheri, The Divine Comedy: Cantica One, Hell, trans. Dorothy L. Sayers (London: Penguin, 1949), p. 91.

[12] Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. A.D. Melville (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 87.

[13] Doyle, ‘The Adventure of the Man With the Twisted Lip’, 1891; repr. in The Complete Adventures and Memoirs, p. 71.

[14] Doyle ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’, 1892; repr. in The Complete Adventures and Memoirs, p. 100.

[15] Doyle, ‘The Adventure of the Copper Beeches’, p. 238.

[16] This character is interesting, as she moves away from the idea of the detective as also ‘other’, having as she does, friends, family and a love interest. Agatha Christie created several detectives like this, who appear in only one or two books, although her two main detectives, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple continue to be removed from society by nationality/marital status/age. The presence of detectives such as ‘Bundle’, though, suggests the beginnings of the movement of detectives, as well as criminals, from the clearly defined ‘other’.

[17] Agatha Christie, The Seven Dials Mystery (1929; repr. London: Collins, 1954) p. 178.

[18] Agatha Christie, ‘The Capture of Cerberus’ in The Labours of Hercules (1947; repr. London: Penguin, 1953) p. 231.

[19] As a point of comparison, it is interesting that by the Golden Age, when drugs are a popular subject for detective fiction, they have a definite criminal status. In Victorian detective fiction, whilst Watson disapproves of Holmes’ opium habit, it is clearly more a matter of personal and social rather than legal discretion.

[20] Dorothy L. Sayers Gaudy Night (1935; repr. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1970) p. 50.

[21] A significant point, but one which cannot be explored within the limitations of this paper, is that the sense of the other in Golden Age detective fiction can be linked to issues of ‘class’. In Gaudy Night, the female dons wish to allocate blame to the scouts (p. 84.). This text is not isolated in this idea: in Agatha Christie’s The Moving Finger, Jerry Burton expresses incredulity that the criminal could be ‘a lady’. (London: Collins, 1943) p. 67.

[22] Agatha Christie, Murder is Easy (1939; repr. London: Collins, 1960) p. 58.

[23] Dorothy L. Sayers Murder Must Advertise (1933; repr. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1978) p. 64.


Alighieri, Dante, trans. by Dorothy L. Sayers, The Divine Comedy, Cantica 1: Hell (London: Penguin, 1949).

Christie, Agatha, The Seven Dials Mystery (1929; repr. London: Collins, 1954).

——–, Murder is Easy (1939; repr. London: Collins, 1960).

——–, The Moving Finger (1943; repr. London: Collins, 1961).

——–, The Labours of Hercules (1947; repr. London: Penguin, 1953).

——–, 4.50 from Paddington (1957; repr. London: Collins, 1960).

Doyle, Arthur Conan, The Sign of Four (1890; repr. London: Penguin, 1982).

——–, The Complete Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1891-1893; repr. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1975).

Haining, Peter, Mystery!: An Illustrated History of Crime and Detective Fiction (London: Souvenir Press, 1977).

Haycraft, Howard, Murder for Pleasure: The Life and Times of the Detective story, 1st British edn, (London: Windmill Press, 1942).

Hill, Reginald ‘A Prehistory’ in Whodunit? A Guide to Crime, Suspense and Spy Fiction, ed. by H.R.F. Keating (London: Winward, 1982).

Keating, H. R. F., ed., Whodunit? A Guide to Crime, Suspense and Spy Fiction, ed. by H.R.F. Keating (London: Winward, 1982).

Ousby, Ian, The Crime and Mystery Book (London: Thames and Hudson, 1997).

Ovid, trans. by A.D. Melville, Metamorphoses (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

Poe, Edgar Allan, ed. by David Galloway, The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings (London: Penguin, 1986).

Sayers, Dorothy L., Lord Peter Views the Body (1928; repr. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1979).

——–, Murder Must Advertise (1933; repr. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1978).

——–, Gaudy Night (1935; repr. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1970).

Williams, Raymond, The Country and the City (London: Chatto & Windus, 1973).

To Cite This Article:

Esme Miskimmin, ‘Crossing the “Shadow Frontier”’: The Criminal Underworld in Detective Fiction from the Victorians to the Golden Age’. Literary London: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Representation of London, Volume 5 Number 2 (September 2007). Online at Accessed on [date of access]