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KajoPicks: 10 literary detectives that we love

When it comes to fiction, who doesn’t love a good crime novel? Not only are the mysteries fascinating, but the characters themselves are essential to any compelling mystery crime fictions, be it in short stories or novels.

There are all kinds of literary detectives out there; from private investigators to professional policemen.

Some of these literary detectives have even made it to TV shows or the big screens, gathering a new fan base, especially among those who do not read crime novels.

Every literary detective usually has his or her own quirks or issues that keep readers coming back for more.

Here are KajoMag’s top 10 picks of our favourite literary detectives:
1.Sherlock Holmes

We cannot talk about literary detectives without mentioning Sherlock Holmes. In terms of Holmes’ depictions on screen, fans have had long arguments on who has played Holmes better, Robert Downey Jr. or Benedict Cumberbatch. (Who also happen to share the big screen in the MCU universe XD)

At the end of the day, though, books are always better than movies or TV shows. Besides letting you imagine the setting or events happening in the story, books can usually create more interesting plots or let you in on what the characters are thinking.

Created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes is one of the most famous literary detectives of all time.

2.C. Auguste Dupin

Before there was Holmes, the literary world had C. Auguste Dupin first. Edgar Allan Poe penned him in The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842) and The Purloined Letter (1844).

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The Murders in the Rue Morgue is widely considered as the first detective fiction story ever.

After Poe created Dupin, the character had inspired other authors to create their own literary detectives, including Holmes.

3.Hercule Poirot

Here is another character which is inspired by Dupin. English writer Agatha Christie first created Poirot in 1920 in the book The Mysterious Affair at Styles. This was during the “Golden Age of Detective Fiction” (1920s-1930s).

Obviously obsessive-compulsive, Poirot’s interesting character along with Christie’s writing style where she likes to keep her readers guessing, makes him one of the most memorable literary detectives.

Besides Poirot, Christie also created Miss Marple, an elderly lady who is an amateur consulting detective.

4.Harry Bosch

With years of experience as a crime beat writer and crime reporter, it’s no wonder American author Michael Connelly is one of the best crime fiction writers in recent decades.

His most notable works are those featuring Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective Harry Bosch.

He has appeared in 21 novels to date since the first novel The Black Echo in 1992.

After reading any of Connelly’s books featuring Bosch, one can imagine him as a very confrontational and hostile person who always has problems with authority despite being a police officer himself.

Apart from novels featuring Bosch, other must-read books by Connelly are of Mickey Haller. He is a Los Angeles attorney and Bosch’s half brother.

5.Harry Hole

After reading crime novels written by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, one can’t help but notice the similarities between Connelly’s Bosch and Nesbo’s main character Harry Hole.

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That is because Nesbo took Bosch not only as the inspiration for his own character but also a tribute to the American literary detective.

Just like Bosch, Hole also has repeated conflict with his superiors and colleagues.

And just like Bosch, Hole is a brilliant detective who, despite his sometimes compulsive behaviour, still earns respect among his colleagues.

6.Dave Robicheaux

What do Dave Robicheaux and Harry Hole have in common apart from both being literary detectives?

They have both problems with alcohol. Created by American writer James Lee Burke, Robicheaux first appeared in The Neon Rain (1987). Burke’s latest book to date featuring Robicheaux is The New Iberia Blues (2019).

7.Adam Dalgliesh

Perhaps it is a trend or scientific fact that being a loner, or someone not in any committed relationship, makes one a great detective. Most of the literary detectives in this list are single men who either sleep around or are divorced, widowed or simply those who prefer to be alone in the first place.

P.D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh falls under the widowed category after he loses his wife in childbirth.

Like any British detective fiction, Dalgliesh is depicted as the gentlemen detective throughout fourteen mystery novels he has appeared.

8.Inspector Morse

Created by British author Colin Dexter, Inspector Morse is another gentleman detective that we love.

Inspector Morse appeared in 13 novels with the last one being The Remorseful Day (1999).

Like most literary detectives, Inspector Morse has a snobbish characteristic, but he is good at his job.

9.Jack Reacher

While most literary detectives on this list are policemen or private investigators, this character is a former major in the United States Army Military Police Corps.

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British author Lee Childs first created Jack Reacher in 1997 with the book Killing Floor. Since then, Reacher has been roaming around the countryside, always coming across a mysterious situation that requires him to put on a detective’s hat.

If this character sounds familiar, that is because Tom Cruise portrays him in the movie adaptations.

10.Dr Temperance Brennan

Speaking of onscreen adaptations, Dr Temperance Brennan is perhaps one of the literary detectives that successfully transitioned from book to TV.

However, the TV’s Dr Brennan in Bones (played by Emily Deschanel) is just loosely based on American author Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan.

Other than sharing the same name, they also share the same occupation as a forensic anthropologist.

According to Reichs who is the executive producer of the show, the TV’s Brennan is like the younger version of the novel’s Brennan.

Either way, if you like Dr Brennan in Bones, you might also like her in the crime novels.

Do you have any favourite literary detectives? Let us know in the comment box.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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