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German Life and Letters


German-language crime and detective novels of the 1920s and 1930s have recently enjoyed scholarly attention, yet the first decade of the century remains relatively unresearched. This study explores a popular subgenre of the ‘Kriminalroman’ from this crucial period: novels that featured a criminal investigation in which central characters are part of an extended family, referred to here as ‘Familienkrimis’. In them, the resolution of the crime requires addressing familial conflicts, which then enables the (re-)union of a romantic couple. My sample comprises five novels, Im Haus der Witwe (1901) by Robert Kohlrausch, Subotins Erbe (1905) by Gabriele von Schlippenbach, Die Erbtante (1906) by Margarethe Koßak, Schatten (1910) by Isidore Kaulbach, and Schwarze Perlen (1910) by August Weißl. As I show, these ‘Familienkrimis’ afford a productive context for analysing the evolution of the genre in the German-speaking world. Early twentieth-century novels leaned on literary conventions present in the popular nineteenth-century family-centric crime fiction of William Wilkie Collins and Emile Gaboriau, such as ́ intergenerational conflicts, gothic elements, and certain detective types. Whether authors of ‘Familienkrimis’ adhered to or innovated on established narrative conventions, the trends that emerge in this subgenre offer insight into the general catalogue of productive generic devices before 1945.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.