If you've ever wondered about how the detective novel came to be so popular, this list should give you a good place to start.
1) The Book of Daniel and Oedipus Rex both have the main characters questioning witnesses to solve a mystery.
2) In The Three Apples, one of the tales in One Thousand and One Nights, the Caliph’s vizier was charged with finding the killer of a young woman found in a chest, and told to do so within three days or his life was forfeit.
3) Voltaire’s Zadig (1748) an early example of detective fiction.
4) Detective fiction in the English speaking world is considered to have begun with Edgar Allen Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841).
5) Charles Dickens’ Bleak House has a mystery as one of its subplots.
6) Wilkie Collins (Charles Dickens’ protégé) is credited with both the “first great mystery novel”, The Lady in White (1860), but also the work considered by both T.S. Eliot and Dorothy L. Sayers to be the best detective story written, The Moonstone (1868).
7) In 1887, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the master detective, Sherlock Holmes.
8) The 1920s and 30s are considered the golden age of detective fiction, and included the works of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayres, Ngaio Marsh, and Margery Allingham.
9) During this same period, Rex Stout and Ellery Queen were publishing in America.
10) In 1894, British author Arthur Morrison created the first modern private detective, Martin Hewitt.
11) American authors who produced novels about private eyes included Dashiell Hammett, Jonathan Lattimer, and Erle Stanley Gardner.
12) The late 1930s brought a new private eye, in Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe.
13) The late 1970s and 1980s brought women into the private eye novel with the works of Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky, and Sue Grafton.
Some of this information was found on Wikipedia, some of it I had read or heard previously, and some can also be found on Stop Your Killing Me.