My favorite childhood books were all detective stories, even if they were amateurs! As an adult, I still gravitate toward literary detectives because I love a good puzzle.
Literary detectives offer interesting insight into crime-solving. Authors who create unique detective characters can gain a massive following. Whether it’s an actual police detective or an amateur detective, stories featuring these characters offer great appeal. If you love crime fiction, I’m sure you would have heard of these five literary detectives.
1. Sherlock Holmes — Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
… when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, who is a “consulting detective”. Holmes consults to various agencies, including Scotland Yard. This literary detective is the quintessential crime solver. It is said that Joseph Bell, a Scottish surgeon, is the primary inspiration behind this character. Sherlock Holmes displays great observational prowess and deductive reasoning in his quest to solve crimes.
Partnered with Dr. John Watson in solving crimes, Sherlock Holmes has a brilliant mind with somewhat abrasive mannerisms. However, he can see things that others miss, which makes him an outstanding detective. This literary detective has sparked countless books, made-for-TV programs, and screen adaptations, a testimony to the greatness of this character. Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite literary detectives because it’s interesting to read how his mind works.
2. Dr. Alex Cross — Created by James Patterson
Dr. Alex Cross is a psychologist by trade. He began his career as a police detective who then became an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In the latter novels, Dr. Cross becomes a consultant to the police department. His psychology background enables him to delve into the minds of criminals, understanding crimes from a unique perspective.
James Patterson has written a series of books featuring this literary detective who undergoes great personal tragedy. Dr. Cross partners with other detectives, such as John Sampson and later, his wife, Bree Stone, in his crime-solving capers. It is a richly written character, and the author explores Dr. Cross’ motivations as easily as he does those of the antagonists. This is one of my favorite literary detectives because the author has weaved Dr. Cross’ personal life with his skill as a detective.
3. Amos Decker — Created by David Baldacci
The Amos Decker series created by David Baldacci is my favorite of all his books. Amos Decker is a former police detective with amazing abilities. Decker’s career in football ended after a serious brain injury, which left him with the sensory condition, synesthesia. Synesthesia is a condition where there is a link between two or more senses. In Amos Decker’s case, he links images with colors. He also has hyperthymesia, which gives him an autobiographical memory.
Amos Decker’s partner is Alex Jamison, a former journalist who joins Decker in their work with the FBI. Decker is a literary detective who appears emotionless and standoffish. Alex Jamison serves as his emotional translator in their criminal investigations. Decker is one of my favorite literary detectives because although now unable to show deep emotion, he knows that he used to be someone different. It’s sad to bear witness to his gifts, especially when he can never forget a tragic event in his past.
4. Miss Marple — Created by Agatha Christie
Jane Marple is the oldest of my favorite literary detectives. She is an unmarried, older woman who lives in an English village named St. Mary Mead. Not aligned to the police, Miss Marple is more of an amateur detective. She uses her life experience and cynicism to solve crimes.
Her character is like Jessica Fletcher, the mystery writer in the Murder She Wrote TV series, another nosy amateur detective. Miss Marple is highly intelligent and a keen listener and observer of life. She also uses these characteristics to solve crimes. If you like snarky and shrewd literary detectives, you’ll definitely like Miss Marple.
5. Eve Dallas — Created by J.D. Robb
Eve Dallas is a police lieutenant in the New York Police and Security Department (NYPSD). She features in a futuristic detective series written by J.D. Robb. Eve survived a traumatic childhood as a victim of abuse. She uses her trauma, her compassion, and her intelligence to solve crimes.
Eve’s partner is Detective Delia Peabody, who is her exact opposite in temperament and outlook. Roarke, Eve’s husband and a former criminal, is also an amateur detective who assists Eve in solving crimes. I like this literary detective because she uses her own personal tragedy to fight equally for all her victims, regardless of who they might have once been.
My top 5 literary detectives are eclectic in choice. They are all remarkably intelligent and unfailingly curious and provide insight into crime-solving. Who will make it onto your list of top literary detectives?