From Monaco to Mycenae: Europe in the English Golden Age of Detective Fiction
Keywords:golden age crime fiction, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, interwar fiction, train travel, Europe, psychogeography
Since Alison Light’s chapter on Agatha Christie in Forever England (1991), scholars have used detective fiction as a lens to examine English place, identity, and society. I present an alternative vantage point on the geography of English Golden Age detective fiction by considering England in terms of its relationship to Europe. Drawing on human geographer Yi-Fu Tuan’s notion of “mythical space,” I examine tourism and leisure travel on the French Riviera in Christie’s The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928) and Elizabeth Gill’s The Crime Coast (1931), and ritual journeys informed by Greek myth in Gladys Mitchell’s Come Away, Death (1937) and Christie’s short story collection The Labours of Hercules (1947), with reference to other detective fiction authors of the interwar period such as Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham. Noting the persistent presence and proximity of Continental Europe in the imaginary of the English Golden Age, I argue that detectives Hercule Poirot and Mrs. Bradley employ their understanding of the specific cultural, psychological, and imaginative narratives of ancient and modern Europe to make not only crime but European myths and mythical space visible and intelligible, and emphasize their relevance to English world views and creativity.