Beginning in the 1830s and lasting through till the 1860s, the ‘mystery’ novel was a hit with readers across the world. In France, there was Eugene Sue’s Mysteries of Paris (1842–43). In Canada a little earlier there was Mysteries of a Convent (1834). These novels were followed in Britain with George W.M. Reynolds’s Mysteries of London (1844–48) and Mysteries of the Court of London (1849–56). In the United States there was Mysteries of New York (1848–49) by Edward Zane Hudson Jr; Mysteries of Manchester (1844); Mysteries of Boston (1844); and Mysteries of St Louis (1851). In Spain there appeared Los Misterios de Barcelona (1844). In Portugal there was Misterios de Lisboa (1854) by Camillo Castelo Branco, who followed up with a sequel titled Livro Negro de Padre Diniz (1856). In Brazil, there was Juana Manso’s Misterios del Plata (1852).
There were many other mysteries novels in countries such as Mexico, Australia, Colombia, Venezuela, and India. In short, it seems that wherever you were in the world between c.1830 and c.1860, you would have been aware of ‘mysterymania’. They were not ‘mystery’ novels as we would understand them today, in which a detective usually solves a crime. Instead, these novels sought to portray vice and depravity among all classes of society, showing how the lives of people from each social class—especially those from the ‘underworld’—were interconnected as demonstrated through multiple, almost ‘encyclopaedic’ narratives.