The Verdict of You All…

This is a question I’ve mused over for a while, but it’s one of those times in which it may well be more difficult to formulate question rather than answer! (Socrates would be proud.) Simply put, it would be “who are your favorite detective characters?” but I believe the question is slightly more complicated than that. Do we include TV sleuths, or limit it to books? Do we base it on how enjoyable we find the character (I find Dr. Fell delightful) or on how well-characterized he or she is? What of the characters who changed so much over time—Ellery Queen, most notably, or even Miss Marple (from “the worst cat in the village” to a saint!).

cropped-cropped-lord-peter-wimsey-gideon-fell-jules-maigret-sherlock-holmes-charlie-chan-ellery-queen-jane-marple-father-brown-auguste-dupin-hercule-poirot-nero-wolfe.jpgSo many uses for this image…

These are all excellent questions, so naturally yours truly will neatly try to sidestep them and instead leave it up to you: based on whatever criteria you may deem relevant, whom would you consider your favorite sleuths in fiction? I’d love to read and compare lists—it’s something I find especially interesting in view of detective fiction’s oft-cited “characterization problem.” Go at it, ladies and gents! (A top-10 list would be practical, I think.) Then, if you’d like, we can pick which top 5 or so receive the most votes…

My own choices:

Sherlock Holmes (literary, Arthur Conan Doyle)

Lt. Columbo (television, William Link and Richard Levinson)

Matt Cobb (literary, William DeAndrea)

Ellery Queen (literary, Ellery Queen)

Patrick Butler (literary, John Dickson Carr)

Tommy & Tuppence Beresford (literary, Agatha Christie)

Father Brown (literary, G.K. Chesterton)

Thackeray Phin (literary, John Sladek)

Philip Marlowe (literary, Raymond Chandler)

Nick and Nora Charles (film, portrayed by William Powell and Myrna Loy)

 

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7 Responses to The Verdict of You All…

  1. Ha, well, you must be trying to incite a holy war by including Patrick Butler! I personally liked his character in Below Suspicion and felt that he was a perfect counter point to the traditional Carr point of view character. I still haven’t read Patrick Butler for the Defense (although it is close to the top of my pile) so I’ll withhold final judgement for now.

    My reply to your core question is going to be underwhelming. My only “favorite detective in fiction” is Dr Gideon Fell. If Fell is in a novel, I’m automatically going to look forward to reading it (unless it’s post 1950, in which case there may be a bit of reservation about what I’m going to get). There’s an odd blustering warmth to the character that really adds to a story for me. I love scenes like at the end of Death Watch, where Fell and the characters sit around a table and he lectures.

    The more Fell is in a book, the better. My preference is that the point of view character follows him around the entire story and watches the investigation unfold. Two books come to mind where Fell isn’t in them enough – The Problem of the Wire Cage and The Arabian Nights Murder. In both those cases, the story could have used an extra injection of Fell, although I understand that wouldn’t have worked given the story structures.

    As for other detectives, they’re fine. I certainly enjoy Poirot, or Queen, or Cockrill, although I’d be more excited about one of those books because of the author than because of the actual detective.

    Early era Merrivale was worth looking forward to, but that came to a close shortly following The Judas Window.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Why, ‘e’s crazy, t’at Karl! Crazy!”

      “T’ey’re all crazy, t’ese Patrick Butler fans. T’ey’re all crazy except for you and me. And sometoimes I ‘ave me doubts about you.”

      Still love that line (from Dracula ’31)… 🙂

      Seriously, though, yes, I knew including the good Mr. Butler may ruffle some feathers, but he really is my favorite recurring Carr sleuth. As noted above, I do like Dr. Fell—especially in Hag’s Nook and in The Crooked Hinge, but—like you with Poirot, Queen, and Cockie—“I’d be more excited about one of those books because of the author than because of the actual detective.”

      In many ways, it seems, Butler is Carr’s parody of the omniscient sleuth; the scene at the end of Beneath Suspicion in which he keeps telling the murderess that he, not Fell, figured it is a particular delight; we’re not truly supposed to take his omniscience seriously, but we are supposed to understand his egotism. One of my favorite historical figures is Sir Marshall Hall, K.C., also called “the Great Defender,” also possessing that enormous ego, and also a grand old rapscallion of the type that makes history so interesting. (I can digress with the best of ‘em!)

      Thanks greatly for the reply, but—while I won’t criticize too much—does your favoritism for Fell mean that you wouldn’t even put the hawk-nosed gentleman from Baker Street on your “favorite sleuths” list? The mind boggles! 😉

      Like

    • No holy war yet, m’friend… All quiet on the western front so far… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My fave detectives are: Nero Wolfe (by Rex Stout), Sam Spade (Dashiell Hammett) and Nick and Nora Charles. I was very pleased to see Nick and Nora on your list. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Silver Screenings—I love Nick and Nora, especially the film versions (I like the book, too, but not as much as the movie). The Thin Man has long been one of my favorite movies. I’m going to have to post some more film stuff one of these days..

      I’ve always liked Archie more than I liked Wolfe himself in the Stout books; I was debating whether or not to include Spade or Marlowe, but ultimately I went with the latter because of that more personal voice. But they’re both excellent characters. Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  3. neeru says:

    My fave detectives are:

    1. Philip Marlowe (literary, Raymond Chandler)
    2. Arthur Crook (literary, Anthony Gilbert)
    3. Byomkesh Bakshi (literary, Shardindu Bandopadhya and televised, portrayed by Rajat Kapoor)
    4. Hercule Poirot (literary, Agatha Christie)
    5. Inspector Appleby (literary, Michael Innes)
    6. Chief Inspector MacDonald (literary, ECR Lorac)
    7. Inspector French (literary, Freeman Wills Crofts)
    8. Tommy and Tuppence (literary, Agatha Christie)
    And having read only one book each:
    9. Nick and Nora (literary, Dashiell Hammett)
    10. Thakeray Phin (literary, John Sladek)

    This is an interesting survey. Looking forward to the results.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great choices, neeru! Happy to see another fan of Phil Marlowe, Tommy and Tuppence, and Thackeray Phin (an interesting combination, to be sure)!

      I’m not all that well-read with a number of them—Gilbert, Lorac, Crofts—and, while I like Innes and Christie a great deal, I don’t come to the books for Appleby or Poirot, respectively. I love Nick and Nora, though more particularly in the film adaptations.

      Thanks, too, for the kind words at the survey! Hope to get some more people here soon and come up with a consensus of sorts… 🙂

      Like

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