This text identifies three basic fictional forms dealing with murder and detection - mystery, detective and crime fiction. It attempts to express their interrelations, to define their differences, and to explain why these subgenres take the forms they do. Parts One and Two distinguish between mystery and detective in terms of their narrative worlds and their treatment of the sign. Mystery fiction takes place in a centered world, one whose most distinctive characteristic is motivation (of behaviour and signs). Built in a faith of foundations, it insists upon the solidity of social life, the validity of social conventions and the sanctity of signs. Mystery assures us that motives exist for both words and deeds. Covering the forms that murder fiction takes, this study includes analyses of texts by Doyle; Christie; Sayers; Hammett; Chandler; Highsmith; Jim Thompson; Thomas Harris; and others. It demonstrates that various permutations of murder fiction make for very different narrative texture and reading experiences.