Who Were The Best Fictional Detectives Of All Time
The detective novel or crime fiction book has been around for centuries. Some state that the origin is as old as the Bible (see the Old Testament story of Susanna and the Elders, Daniel 13). Others claim it is a nineteenth century origin with the likes of number one on our list (they would be wrong, by the way). No matter where it came from, the detective is a fan favorite of many people - solving crimes through his mind and wit and empirical evidence. The detective writer takes us through twists and turns only to blind side us with the truth at the end of the story - and we eat it up! Who are the best fictional detectives, though? Here are my favorite, but did your super sleuth make the list? Find out below...
Sherlock Holmes is probably the most known of all fictional detectives. He is the creation of Scottish writer/physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle started writing the Holmes short stories, which were published in serial format in between his patients. In addition to being a brilliant detective, Holmes was also a master of disguise, and a forensic scientist. He was not without fault, though. According to Doyle, Holmes also had a drug problem with cocaine and morphine. In all, Sherlock Holmes appeared in four novels and 56 short stories. Nearly all of these were narrated by his friend, Dr. John H. Watson. As an interesting trivia fact, Sherlock Holmes has an older brother, named Mycroft, who is supposedly much smarter and observant than Sherlock.
This character is a fictional Belgian detective from the mind of Agatha Christie. Poirot is one of Christie's most famous and long-lived characters, appearing in 33 novels and 51 short stories published between 1920 and 1975 and set in the same era. Poirot is the amalgamation of several fictional and real-life characters. Poirot lives in London and is short (5'4") and loves the finer things in life. He is also addicted to order and it appears that he may have had O.C.D. While Sherlock Holmes had a modest life, Poirot does everything to excess. He has a big, chauffeur-driven car and has an equally big ego. One thing I've always liked about this character is that he tries to solve most of his crimes by thinking them through and finding out the psychology of crimes, not just through the clues that are left behind.
This character was not as widely used as the others on this list. He is the creation and main protagonist in Dashiell Hammett's book, The Maltese Falcon. You may know the name of that film from the famous Humphrey Bogart film of the same name. Sam Spade also appears in three other short stories on the character. Sam Spade is not a hero. If anything, he's a dark hero. He's rude, crude, and crass. Sam Spade is the guy who can handle himself in any situation. Unlike Poirot or Holmes, he settles his arguments in a brute force sort of way with his fists and a gun. The reason I have chosen Sam Spade over other characters of this type is because he is the archetype that all other tough-guy, dark detectives are based upon.
This fictional New York detective is from the mind of Rex Stout. He appears in 33 novels and 39 short stories throughout the 1930s-1970s. Throughout the entire time, Nero Wolfe does not age, even though his surroundings do. Wolfe is not your typical detective hero. He's supposed to be in his late 50s and weighs over 300 pounds. Because of his weight, Nero Wolfe is pretty much a shut-in and rarely leaves his home - or even his chair! (I might be the living version of this man!) All of the stories are told through Wolfe's assistant and fellow detective, Archie Goodwin. I like this guy because his background is located here in Ohio. Goodwin - who is cynical and street smart - was born in Chillicothe, Ohio and moved to Zanesville as a young boy. While Wolfe never leaves his home, he uses Goodwin as his eyes and ears on the outside.
You might be asking yourself why I included a comic book superhero on this list. There are so many other great detectives out there, so why fall back on comic books. The reason is that Batman has all of the qualities of the others on this list. Batman uses his mind, deduction, criminal science and profiling to take on some of the world's most psychopathic killers. He does this through physical and mental training and array of amazing gadgets. He is the creation of Bob Kane and Bill Finger and has been solving crime, non-stop, since 1939. The stories are not much different than a crime short story and they have pictures for those who like to see the action, besides just reading it.
If you are interested in reading more about these private detectives, you might find the following books and movies of interest: