In a perfect world there will be no need for detective stories, but then there will be nothing to detect.
In your books you condemn all that is foul and mean
Many's the party, but always kept clean.
Yours is the role of Morality Play
Wherein all the wicked find crime doesn't pay.
Blackmailer, killer, scoundrel and crook
Sooner or later are brought to book.
Always underneath the smooth surface there was some black mud. There wasn't clear water down to the pebbles, down to the shells, lying on the bottom of the sea. There was something mouing, something sluggish somewhere, something that had to be found, suppressed.
Those who see classic detective fiction as mere puzzle would argue, as Edmund Wilson did, that it is not literature, and, therefore, the question of theme is irrelevant. To others, the concept of theme in the genre is hardly worth consideration because of its obviousness. The attitude is that, of course, the theme is good versus evil, innocence versus guilt, and nothing more need be said except that in the conflict good always prevails. Such a view places detective fiction within the larger genre of melodrama, with its eternal theme of virtue triumphant. Persons holding this view would probably add that if any other themes are present, they are the results of substructure, second text, deep text, the author's unconscious, or some other theory supplied by the critic who wishes to find them. The problem with this type of easy dismissal is that nearly all of the world's literature is based in some way on the conflict of good and evil. The two valid points implicit in this "of course, the theme is obvious" concept are that detective fiction is moral and that its ultimate outcome—however confusing the way to it—is predictable. Perhaps these are the reasons for Erik Routley's description of detective fiction as "entertainment for puritans," as surely they are the basis of Christie's statement that her belief when she began to write was that detective fiction was "very much a story with a