“Here’s how it happened…”
This fairly ‘typical’ statement is the utterance that hurtles any investigative process towards denouement. While the ‘detective’ emerged as a professional working as a bye-arm of the law towards the latter part of the eighteenth century, ‘detection’ has undergone a series of transformations only to acquire different implications in every period. In the eighteenth century it operated from behind the blurry silhouette of an individual who explored the mechanism of crime to raise philosophical questions and critique governmental tyranny. In Britain, with the evolution of the detective branch of the London Metropolitan Police in the early decades of the nineteenth century, the figure of the detective entered popular literature, fascinating readers with suspense and resolution in the plot. Over the next few decades, ‘detective fiction’ developed as a genre, adopting a more structured and organized approach. Detection increasingly became a sophisticated activity that relied on psychology and science (forensics) to capture criminals and bring justice. Penny-dreadfuls started focusing on the memoirs of the criminals and discussed means of identifying blood and ways to avoid leaving traces behind. Recording and identifying individuals based on their fingerprints to establish links of criminality also became the marker of this age, and subsequently, its detection. Instances of crime were an aberration but not a shocker anymore!