In reading detective fiction, one frequently comes upon the device of the staged crime scene, where the difficulty is not only the usual one—to assign the correct meaning and logical sequence to a jumble of clues and competing reports—but also to discard the all-too-legible false solution purposely embedded by the criminal. For example, in the Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet, a clumsy attempt is made by the villainous Mormons to misdirect police by scrawling “RACHE” nearby, thereby diverting suspicion onto German socialists and secret societies. In Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, this device is given a further twist when the wife stages her own kidnapping in such a way that it would be detected as staged, so as to implicate her husband in her faked murder. The goal, for the criminal, is to leave a disassembled narrative that will...

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