The Golden Age of Detective Fiction is the period of mystery fiction in the 1920s-1930s The plots revolved around the upper class characters being involved with murder. It centers around the dichotomy between the elegance of the European elite and the savagery and blood that comes with the events of the story. Feelings of suspense, interesting characters with different backgrounds, and glamorous settings are a major component of this type of aesthetic.
The architecture and fashion spans multiple decades, with the landed gentry and British Empire being major background context. Because of the tastes and traditions of the rich, most of these historical components would not interfere with the aesthetic. Many of the activities and behaviors that they do would now be considered archaic, such as hunting, cocktail parties, and traveling via ornate steam trains. After the fall of the British Empire and shifts in tastes with the rich, this aesthetic is largely unseen except in fiction or purposefully historic houses and events.
Exotic elements, such as the story taking place in jungles or deserts, tropical animals, and non-European artifacts are also incorporated due to the British Empire's influence. Many stories revolve around characters who are colonial authorities, explorers, archaeologists, and travelers. Please note that because of the time period, the depictions of the native people are often ignored or racist due to the prejudice of the time period.
The visual and story tropes arose from the popularity of authors such as Agatha Christie, with other pulp novels that utilize the same aesthetic. In contemporary fiction, many of these have been spoofed in modern media and parodies, which further cements the aesthetic. The style has also largely fallen out of favor because they are "cozy" mysteries that are seen as formulaic and over-done. There have also been some novel and kitschy elements added to the aesthetic because of its spread into children's media and board games. In this aspect, murder and violence is down-played, and writers/game designers add riddles, hidden rooms, and fantastical elements such as alchemy and dungeons.
A lot of the imagery is connected with Gothic literature and horror, but the main story and visual component is free of supernatural components in favor of showing the motives of the criminals that started the events of the plot. The nobility being the perpetrator can also serve as a critique of their over-indulgence and greed of some of the gentry. It also shares visual tropes and some story components with Dark Academia, but does not involve learning and explicitly takes place among non-students.
- Antique rifles
- Cigars and smoking
- Decor typical of aristocratic houses, such as suits of armor and portraits
- Dinner parties, with multiple courses and traditionally wealthy foods such as Beef Wellington and foie grois
- Detective paraphernalia such as magnifying glasses and fingerprint powder
- Egyptian artifacts
- Exotic animals such as jaguars and lions, often used as "murder weapon"
- Fashionable clothing and jewelry indicative of the upper class, i.e. pearls
- Hunting paraphernalia such as taxidermy, hunting dogs, and tranquilizer darts
- Leather-bound books and private libraries
- Liquor, a good medium for poison and blurred memories
- Manor houses, often in remote areas
- Oak paneled walls
- Oriental rugs
- Puzzle boxes and hidden rooms
- Secret messages
- Steam engine trains
- Swords, knives, and daggers
- Unspecified "oriental" artifacts, often Turkish, Indian, or Chinese
Typical Character Types
- Adventurers, typically clad in pith helmets and the "colonizer uniform"
- Businessmen, either stuffy or hedonistic
- Butlers, servants, and maids. "The butler did it!" is a common accusation
- Femme fatales
- "Great Detective" such as Hercule Poirot. Note that this can remove some suspense. (Please note that Sherlock Holmes is 1890s and does not fit)
- Military authority
- Minority who is either sidelined or stereotyped and portrayed as foreign and uncivilized
- Nobility and the landed gentry
- Widows whose husbands disappeared under mysterious circumstances
- Chases and escapes
- Hunting (humans included)
- Searching for clues
Authors, Playwrights, etc.
- Agatha Christie
- Edward Gorey, who does not write true mysteries or thrillers, but employs this aesthetic
- Mary Roberts Rinehart
- Some aspects of Batman, specifically storylines involving Bruce Wayne, Ra's al Ghul, and The Court of Owls
Please do not include film adaptations of other works
- Knives Out (2019)
Literature and Short Stories
This does not include works done by the authors previously mentioned
- A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Like Gorey, aesthetic only.
- "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell
- Clue (1949)
TV and Web Series
- Edgar Allan Poe's Murder Mystery Dinner Party (2016)
- Mystery! (1980-present)