Detection in the second degree in French urban mystery novels | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2045-5852
  • E-ISSN: 2045-5860



This article uses the palimpsest as an interpretative lens through which to consider Fortuné du Boisgobey’s Mystères du Nouveau Paris (1876) as a rewriting of Eugène Sue’s Mystères de Paris ([1842–43] 1989). In particular, via an examination of Boisgobey’s use of the hunting metaphor, I demonstrate the central role of the mystères urbains/urban mysteries in a hypertextual chain linking the adventure novel and the later roman policier/detective novel. Boisgobey veers between emphasizing the familiarity of the hunting cliché and wilfully subverting it, and this playful oscillation is echoed en abyme within the diegesis. The urban mystery novel, I suggest, emerges as an important precursor of the detective novel, in that this deliberate and sophisticated alternation between the predictable and the surprising echoes the ambiguity inherent to the palimpsest and integral to modern crime fiction.


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