Some Famous Detectives

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  • Roderick Alleyn. A gentleman police detective who appears in thirty-two novels by New Zealand author and theater director Ngaio Marsh (a woman) starting in 1934. He attended Oxford University and served in the army during World War I. He also worked briefly for the British Foreign Service. His older brother is a baronet. In his younger days he was attracted to actresses, but eventually he married a painter, Agatha Troy.

  • Sir John Appleby. Originally a detective inspector at Scotland Yard, then a police commissioner, Sir John Appleby appears in the works of Michael Innes beginning in 1936. Even after retiring, Sir John continued to solve crimes. He had one of the longest careers of any of the great detectives.

  • Martin Beck. A Swedish police detective who appears in ten novels by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö starting in 1965. He tends to get sick a lot, perhaps because he smokes so much.

  • Father Brown. A Catholic priest who appears in fifty-one short stories by G.K. Chesterton beginning in 1910. His methods for solving crime are intuitive rather than deductive. Because of his position as a priest and confessor, he is acutely aware of human evil and its possibilities and is able to use that knowledge and experience in his cases.

  • Albert Campion. A gentleman detective featured in the works of Margery Allingham beginning in 1929. He was originally created as a parody of Lord Peter Wimsey but became a complex character in his own right.

  • Nancy Drew. An amateur teenage detective featured in works created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer, who hired a series of writers to work collectively under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. Nancy Drew first appeared in 1930.

  • C. Auguste Dupin. An amateur detective created by Edgar Allan Poe. He made his first appearance in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” which is widely considered the first detective story, even before the word “detective” was coined. In Dupin, Poe laid the foundation for the detective fiction genre.

  • Dr. Gideon Fell. An amateur sleuth created by John Dickson Carr, making his first appearance in 1933. He is a portly man with a mustache, who wears a cape and walks with two canes. He began as a lexicographer but was later described as working on a monumental history of the beer-drinking habits of the English people.

  • Sherlock Holmes. A private consulting detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes first appeared in “A Study in Scarlet,” which was published in 1887. He is the seminal detective who solves cases by using his exceptional powers of observation and deduction, not to mention disguise. He was an early practitioner of forensic science. He is popularly recognized by his cape, deerstalker hat, magnifying glass, pipe, and violin. Holmes’s archenemy, the criminal mastermind Professor James Moriarty, originally appeared in only two short stories so that Doyle could kill off Holmes. However, Moriarty features prominently in derivative works. Moriarty is a mathematical genius and heads a crime ring, though he often functions alone.

  • Monsieur Lecoq. A detective with the French Sûreté created by 19th century writer and journalist Émile Gaboriau. Lecoq preceded the creation of Sherlock Holmes and influenced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his characterization. Still, Holmes dismissed Lecoq in “A Study in Scarlet” as a “miserable bungler.” Lecoq was the first fictional detective to assiduously analyze crime scenes and evidence by inspecting them visually. He was also a master of disguise. “Lecoq” means “the rooster.”

  • G. Lestrade. A Scotland Yard detective who appears in many of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, starting in 1887. Nowhere does Doyle mention his first name, only the initial G. Although Lestrade ascended to the upper ranks of the Yard, he did so by being unimaginative and conventional rather than brilliant, and to a certain extent by taking credit for cases that Holmes actually solved, with Holmes’s approval and complicity. He sometimes clashes with Holmes and his sidekick Dr. John Watson, although as the stories progress, Lestrade seems to appreciate Holmes’s unconventional methods more.

  • Jane Marple. Usually referred to as “Miss Marple,” amateur sleuth Jane Marple appears in many of Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories starting in 1926. She is an intelligent and astute elderly woman who lives in the village of St. Mary Mead.

  • Pradosh C. Mitter. Pradosh C. Mitter is the anglicized name of Prodosh Chandra Mitra, or Feluda, as he is known in Bengali. He is a private investigator appearing in works by film director and writer Satyajit Ray. He made his first appearance in a Bengali children’s magazine called Sandesh in 1965. Satyajit Ray was a devotee of the Sherlock Holmes stories and his character resembles Holmes.

  • Allan Pinkerton. A Scottish-American detective and spy who founded the Pinkerton National Detective agency. Pinkerton was a real person who lived from 1819 to 1884.

  • Hercule Poirot. A Belgian private detective living in England, created by Agatha Christie. He made his first appearance in The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920. Poirot is famous for solving cases by using his “little gray cells” and is known for being fussy, bombastic, and egotistical.

  • Lucy Pym. A psychologist who solves a crime in a physical training college for girls. Lucy Pym was created by Josephine Tey, whose real name was Elizabeth Mackintosh. She appeared in Lucy Pym Disposes in 1946.

  • Parker Pyne. A consulting detective in several works by Agatha Christie. He first appeared in 1932. He is a retired government employee turned philanthropist who is more concerned with making his clients happy than investigating crimes. He believes that there are five types of unhappiness, all of which can be cured logically.

  • Joseph Rouletabille. A teenage journalist created by Gaston Leroux. Joseph Rouletabille is a nickname for Joseph Josephin. The character first appeared in 1907 in The Mystery of the Yellow Room (Le Mystère de la Chambre Jaune), in which he solved a locked room puzzle.

  • The Secret Seven. A group of child detectives created by Enid Blyton, first appearing in 1949. They are Peter—the leader—Peter’s sister Janet, Jack, Barbara, George, Pam, and Colin.

  • Gerard Van Helden. A detective superintendent in the Birmingham City Police Force. He was a real person who was born in the Netherlands in 1848. Rapidly promoted, he found success as a result of his uncanny ability to remember faces and because he spoke three languages: Dutch, German, and English. He was so successful and effective that he became known as “The Famous Detective.”

  • Harriet Vane. A mystery writer turned sleuth invented by Dorothy L. Sayers. Vane eventually marries Lord Peter Wimsey, despite the fact that she initially finds him to be overbearing and superficial. Early on she is arrested for the murder of her lover, Philip Boyes, but is acquitted with Wimsey’s help. After the trial she remains notorious, a fact that helps her sell a lot of books.

  • Dr. John Watson. A character in the Sherlock Holmes stories created by Arthur Conan Doyle. Watson makes his first appearance in “A Study in Scarlet,” which was published in 1887. While not all that bright, Watson often helps Holmes reach important conclusions by acting as a sounding board and foil.

  • Lord Peter Wimsey. Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey is a gentleman detective who solves murders for his own amusement in works by Dorothy L. Sayers. He is descended from the 12th century knight Gerald de Wimsey, who accompanied King Richard the Lionheart on the Third Crusade. Peter Wimsey eventually marries another of Sayers’s detectives, Harriet Vane. He collects rare books, is an expert on food and wine, and is an accomplished pianist.
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