Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Detectives do battle: Who is the World's favourite fictional detective?

Fellow book blogger (and Crime watch competition winner) Jen from Jen's Book Thoughts is running a "Detectives Around the World" theme week from 11-17 April this year.

As part of that theme, Jen is creating a tournament for the "World's Favorite Detective." This tournament will consist of weekly contests similar to the college basketball tournaments that will be going on (ie "March Madness" as it is affectionately known in the States). It will start with 64 nominated detectives, and there will be ongoing competitions (votes perhaps?) until a winner is declared. Detectives must be law enforcement or licensed PIs (e.g. no amateur sleuths in this particular competition).

Nominations are now open for the 64 slots in the tournament (nominations close on February 28th). So for the rest of this month you can visit Jen's excellent blog and nominate your favorite detectives. Jen says that if more than 64 different detectives are nominated, those with more nominations will be selected for the tournament.

This sounds like a fantastic way to highlight a variety of detectives from around the world. It will be interesting to see not only who 'wins' or makes it through quite far, but also what 64 detectives originally 'qualify' for the tournament. I hope that it will help many people get a little more acquainted with some lesser-known, or forgotten, detectives.

I have put some of my 2 cents in, making a few nominations. I was a little worried that with all the reading I do and have done in the past, I would have way too many - combining classics from the Golden Age and before, old favourites from when I was growing up, and all the new ones I have been more recently 'introduced' too.

But it was interesting that when I thought of my favourite new-to-me authors of the past 18mths or so, several (e.g. Linwood Barclay, Gregg Hurwitz, Paul Cleave etc) do not have recurring detectives as such. I had decided to only include series/recurring detectives in my nominations, rather than one-off detectives that I thought were engagaing, fascinating, and really enjoyed (e.g. Theo Tate from Paul Cleave's CEMETERY LAKE), so that made things a little easier.

My nominations thusfar may seem something of an eclectic mix - I've tried to include some old, some new, and some lesser-known but very interesting. I went with how interesting the detective was, rather than how good the book was overall (so I may include detectives who shine amongst books that are good, rather than just detectives from 'great' books).

So here are some of mine (in no particular order).

My 'top 3' read-everything-they-put-out authors and their detectives from my pre-reviewing days (over the past decade):
  • Mark Billingham's Tom Thorne
  • Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch
  • James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux
Old favourites from when I was growing up:
  • Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot (personally always preferred him to Marple)
  • Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes
  • Franklin W. Dixon's Joe and Frank Hardy (the "Hardy Boys" - first mysteries I was hooked on growing up)*
* I haven't entered these two in Jen's tournament yet, because I'm not sure whether they come within her qualifying rules.
The New Zealand contingent:
  • Vanda Symon's Sam Shephard (very interesting and well-written main character)
  • Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn (important in the overall canon of classic crime fiction)
Other interesting internationals (that I've more recently been introduced to as a reader):
  • Michael Stanley's Detective "Kubu" Bengu (Botswana)
  • John Burdett's Sonchai Jitpleecheep (Thailand)
  • Jack Kerley's Carson Ryder (Alabama)
  • Robert Crais's Elvis Cole and Joe Pike (LA)
  • Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee (Navajo Reservation, southwest USA)
I know there are plenty more I've left off, and I will add some more later. But these few are all pretty interesting and readable in their own unique ways.
So who are your favourite detectives? Do you like any/many off my list? What do you think of Jen's tournament? Do you like regularly finding new detectives to add to the old favourites you read? Thoughts and comments welcome


  1. Omigosh! How could I forget Hillerman's Leaphorn and Chee? I'm glad you included your link at Jen's site - thanks for the reminder! ;-)

    I nominated quite a few including some of your picks: Harry Bosch, Dave Robicheaux, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. A couple of my other favorites that I nominated were Elizabeth George's Thomas Lynley, Louise Penny's Armand Gamache and Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire.

    Cheers from Nashville, Tennessee!

  2. Thanks for the comment Christine. I've been waiting for a Louise Penny book to arrive actually - I've heard good things about Gamache, and am looking forward to trying her writing...

  3. A few from Europe Andrea Camilleri's Salvo Montalbano, Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti, Arnaldur Indridason's Erlendur, and Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole.

  4. Cool competition, I'll go have a look.


  5. The qualifications say law enforcement or licensed PIs, or that's what I thought I read.

    Both Marsh's Inspector Alleyn and Symon's Sam Shephard are police officers, or so I thought.

    I don't see the problem.

  6. I nominated three from England, one from Norway, one from Israel, and one from Canada.

  7. The two I hadn't entered were the Hardy Boys (sons of a PI) Fred - see the asterisk to the comment, though I see that could be confusing, with the two Kiwi ones following directly after the comment. Don't worry, I nominated Alleyn and Sam Shephard

  8. Kiwicraig,

    Ah, I see how I made the mistake.

    Right--sons of a PI.