In the summer of 1876, Mark Twain started to write Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a detective novel surrounding the murder of Huck’s father, Pap Finn. The case is unresolved in the novel as it exists today, but Twain had already planted the clue to the identity of the killer. It is not the various objects ostentatiously left around Pap’s naked body; they are not the foreground of the scene, but actually the background, against which a peculiar absence emerges distinctively—Pap’s boots, with a "cross" in one of the heels, are gone with his murderer.
The key to the mystery of Twain’s writings, as this book contends from a broader perspective, is also such an absence. Twain’s persistent reticence about the death of his father, especially the autopsy performed on his naked body, is a crucial clue to understanding his works. It reveals not only the reason why he aborted his vision of Huckleberry Finn as a detective novel, but also why, despite numerous undertakings, he failed to become a master of detective fiction.
1. The Ur-Huckleberry Finn The Naked Body and Boots Here Is What Happened 2. Huckleberry Finn Redux Tom Sawyer, Detective Corpse and Murderer "Tom Sawyer’s Conspiracy" 3. "The Carnival of Crime" and Cadavers Splitting The Forbidden Fruit 4. The Half-Brother and the Half-Breed Tom the Apple Eater Tom the Scapegoat Tom the Detective 5. The Cave Joe the Scapegoat The Cross in the Maze 6. Two Patricidal Stories Pudd’nhead Wilson A Double Barrelled Detective Story 7. The Oedipal Huckleberry Finn The Two Chases The Slain Snake 8. The Seven Year War Maze in Europe The Carnage 9. A Truce Reinternalization of Conscience Huck’s Deception The Safe Return of the Repressed