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Publisher's Summary

Great mystery and suspense writers have created some of the most unforgettable stories in all of literature. Even those who don't consider themselves fans of this intriguing genre are familiar with names such as Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade, Hannibal Lecter, and Robert Langdon, and understand the deep and lasting impact this writing has had on literature as a whole. An utterly captivating and compelling genre, mystery and suspense has leapt off the pages of the old dime store paperbacks, magazines, and comic books onto big screens, small screens, radio serials, podcasts, websites, and more. You'll find elements, characters, and references permeating popular culture and news reports worldwide, and bleeding into other literary genres such as romance, political thrillers, sports stories, and even biographies. Nearly 200 years old, the genre of mystery and suspense literature is only growing more popular.

How did it become so prevalent? Why is mystery and suspense a go-to genre for so many around the world? What makes the dark and sometimes grisly themes appealing? In 24 lectures of The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction, Professor David Schmid of the University at Buffalo examines these questions, as he guides you through an examination of the many different varieties of the genre, including classic whodunits, hard-boiled crime fiction, historical mysteries, courtroom dramas, true crime narratives, espionage fiction, and many more.

Fans of the genre will be delighted by the breadth and depth of information presented, guaranteed to uncover gems they had not yet discovered. But anyone, whether they are admirers of mystery on radio and film, or simply fans of literature, history, or pop culture, will find something to enlighten and entertain in this study of a genre with such tremendous impact.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Eye Opening and Enjoyable

Would you listen to The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction again? Why?

I would so listen to this again. It was interesting and informative and I liked the narrator's personal views on certain subject matters. This lecture has turned me on to new reading possibilities that I would never have known about if not for this lecture. It made my work day more enjoyable as I listened while at the office.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction?

When Professor Schmid spoke of the Native American mysteries it perked up my ears. It sounded fascinating and now I'm interested in reading some of the books that were mentioned. I also liked when he talked about the Cozy Mysteries and how professor Schmid didn't find them low brow as some critics have stated. I like thrillers and suspense but a cozy mystery is very comforting to read and immensely enjoyable. Critics be damned but I am with Professor Schmid when it comes to the Cozy Mysteries.

Which character – as performed by Professor David Schmid – was your favorite?

There were no characters as this was a lecture and not a book. I liked the Professor's style of lecture. It wasn't wooden or pretentious. There was warmth and insight and knowledge and passion in what he had to say.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This was not a book but a lecture and so it mainly fascinated me.

Any additional comments?

I thoroughly enjoyed this lecture by Professor David Schmid and will be interested to listen to other lectures by him as I enjoyed the sound of his voice, the cadence in which he spoke, and his passion for the subject.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Carol
  • Massachusetts
  • 12-05-16

I Admit I Cut a Few Classes

This course might have been better off with 30 or even 24 lectures instead of these 36 too-often painfully repetitious segments. Although the course outline looks like it would be inclusive and stimulating, in fact many of the lectures sound the same. I quit listening to several of them when what I thought was going to be a new and interesting topic became a reiteration of previous material.

Not that there aren’t some enlightening and interesting lectures on a couple of unexpected topics such as "Latino Detectives on the Border" and "The American Dime Novel," but for the most part Professor Schmid keeps returning to a few favorite themes.

The first and most repeated theme is the foundational (the professor is fond of such adjectives) roots of mystery and suspense fiction, which he attributes to Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie. It would be pretty hard to argue with these choices, but their work (especially Poe’s "The Murders in the Rue Morgue") is referred to so often, and usually using similar words to make the same points over and over, that I began to wonder whether we’d make it into the 21st century. We do in fact get there, and in the process spend a lot of time with The Private Eye, another pet topic--again a fair choice that I thought it was overemphasized.

This is definitely a college “lit” course, of a type that emphasizes subjective analysis ("why does Dashiell Hammett tell us that Sam Spade's eyes 'burned yellowly'?") and literary criticism ("The noted critic xxx zzz has proposed that...."). It’s also a very academic presentation, heavy on the "here’s what I’m about to tell you, I’m telling you this, here’s what I just told you" formula. For what it presents, it is authoritative, and I did learn some interesting things, but it did not inspire me to explore the work of any of the new-to-me authors, or to try my own hand at mystery and suspense writing (at which I admit I would be awful, so that last is probably just as well).

44 of 52 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Mis-titled

What made the experience of listening to The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction the most enjoyable?

Interesting enough material, but it wasn't instructive for someone wanting to learn how to write about the subject matter.
It was an entertaining overview of how Mystery and Suspense is and has been written. A great selection of authors analyzed, but it didn't actually concern itself with the listener writing. It was a reader's study.

Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

I take them on occasionally. Generally I find them instructive, often entertaining.

What does Professor David Schmid bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

This question is irrelevant to the nature of the title being reviewed, since it was an academic study, not an actual story.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

This question is irrelevant to the nature of the title being reviewed, since it was an academic study, not an actual story.

Any additional comments?

Re title the series: How Mystery and Suspense Is Written. It lack the necessary instruction about beats and high points, timing and other details of story construction. Thirty-six half hours later I found myself still wondering how to do this. The various "lessons" I've found for writing "genre Romance" have been much more helpful to that end. Was hoping for something like here.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Keenan
  • Anchorage Alaska
  • 11-30-17

Mixed feelings

The professor has a large fund of information available to him, and, as a result, I have been introduced to intriguing authors and works. However, he tends to draw unsupported inferences regarding features and developments of various subgenres, so many that I lost count. And I wonder if he is as familiar with seminal works as he should be. For instance, in one lecture, he posed the question, Why did Agatha Christie only write about murders? The answer is, professor, she didn't.

Finally, he redefines cozy to include Golden Age and implies that the modern cozy subgenre is a devolution of mystery writing. Golden Age and cozies are two distinct genres, distanced by time and geography. Golden Age is what the rest of us call traditional mystery and is the trunk of the mystery family tree. As for cozies: they may not be literature, sir, but the fact that, it has an audience shows that it serves a purpose.

On the plus side, he has a very nice voice.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Disappointed, But Maybe My Fault

When I downloaded this Great Course, I thought it would be about WRITING mystery and suspense. It isn't. It's sort of an overview of the literature, from "Murders in the Rue Morgue" to "The Da Vinci Code.' If you are already a devoted reader of mysteries and suspense, there will be little fresh material here, though I did get some leads on mystery authors I haven't yet read. If you want to discover new authors, keep a pad and pen with you--I have forgotten most of the authors and book titles already.

On the plus side, the lecturer knows his material backward and forward, and is a true devotee of the genre. He talks about Sherlock Holmes as though he knew him personally, and his depth of knowledge about these writers and their work is phenomenal. It just didn't happen to be what I wanted, which is not the fault of the course.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

not what I expected but enjoyable

I wouldn't say it's the secrets of mystery and suspense. this is more a history and complete treatise on the elements of the genre.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

As someone else said, “mis-titled”

This course is enjoyable enough for what it is. The problem is, the title implies something different than what the course actually is.

This course isn’t an analytical look at the nuts and bolts of what makes good mystery and suspense fiction work, but often more a history lesson (and not an unenjoyable one) of the genre. There’s some surface-level attention to broad themes and the arc such stories have taken historically, but don’t expect a detailed look at what makes the stories themselves successful from a writing perspective, or enjoyable from a reading perspective.

Of course, I should have done a bit more homework before downloading the course. As long as you know what you’re getting beforehand, it IS a high quality course.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • john
  • Enola, PA, United States
  • 03-29-18

Contains less secrets and more of the already seen

If you could sum up The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction in three words, what would they be?

Summary of Mystery Genres

Who was your favorite character and why?

N/a

What about Professor David Schmid’s performance did you like?

Pretty good performance but could tell when cuts were made.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

N/a

Any additional comments?

Thought this would be more about the technical aspects of writing mystery books but instead it just goes over the different kinds of mystery and suspense types. Was less about secrets and more about what already is known in the industry.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A must-listen for any mystery fan

I learned so much from listening to this course but couldn't believe he had nothing to say about P.D. James.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Some good info, but it gets very repetitive

Some good info, but it gets very repetitive. Not on the same level as many of the other literature lectures from the great courses.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Adrian Marriette
  • 06-30-17

Disappointing

What would have made The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction better?

Shorter more focussed course or a wider choice of examples.

I reached the stage of gritting my teeth every time he mentioned Edgar Allen Poe. It felt like every few minutes. Whilst I grant the man the innovation in the genre he only wrote three stories !! I cannot see mysteries about crazed orangutans getting very far nowadays

Would you listen to another book narrated by Professor David Schmid?

No

What character would you cut from The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction?

Edgar Allen Poe

Any additional comments?

I really wanted to enjoy this

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-02-17

Excellent Depth and Analysis

Fantastic listening to these lectures. Provided great insight into the history and how great mysteries are written. will enjoy them much more now. only thought is that he missed a section on medical mystery stories.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • C. Dewis
  • 02-11-17

Pushing a feminist agenda

The narrator can't help but push his political ideology into what.could have been an interesting subject. So painful, I was unable to finish this tripe

2 of 3 people found this review helpful