In this study, Richard Maxwell uses 19th-century urban fiction - in particular the novels of Hugo and Dickens - to define a genre: the novel of urban mysteries. His title comes from the "mystery mania" that captured both sides of the channel with the runaway success of Eugene Sue's "Les Mysteres de Paris" and G.W.M. Reynold's "Mysteries of London". He argues that within these extravagant but fact-obsessed narratives the archaic form of allegory became a means for understanding modern cities. Dominant among allegorical figures were labyrinths, panoramas, crowds and paperwork, and it was thought that to understand a figure was to understand the city with which it was linked. Novelists such as Hugo and Dickens were able to use such figures without necessarily mirroring ideology. Drawing from an array of disciplines, ideas and contexts, the book examines allegorical theory from the Renaissance through to the 20th century, journalistic practice, the conventions of scientific inquiry, popular psychiatry, illustration and modernized wonder tales (such as Victorian adaptations of the "Arabian Nights"). It explores the ability of the written word to produce and present social knowledge.