Speculative society, risk and the crime thriller
The Datchet Diamonds
in Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890–1915
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Marsh’s The Datchet Diamonds (1898) weaves together crime and romance elements with a financial plot concerning stock market speculation. Drawing on New Economic Criticism, this chapter argues that the novel is fascinatingly ambivalent in its treatment of speculation, appearing to condemn it as dishonourable and criminal while surreptitiously endorsing the very risk-taking behaviour on which it relies. The novel’s ‘decent-man-tempted’ protagonist is rendered attractive to readers through his willingness coolly to stare down danger and play the odds, putting him in uncomfortable proximity to the models of criminal masculinity that the text presents. As a crime thriller, The Datchet Diamonds works by soliciting readerly enjoyment of exposure to risk: as such, it reveals the limitations of crime scholarship that has focused too narrowly upon ‘ideologically conservative’ detective fiction, pointing instead to the willingness of readers to identify with transgressor-protagonists, to see laws broken and social hierarchies questioned.

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