Reading about private investigators or watching their stories come to life under the transforming wand of the movie industry is a classic soft spot for generations upon generations of people. We all adore solving puzzles and, generally speaking, we’re a society that takes much pride in its rationality and logic; this powerful belief in the power of reason, coupled with the fact that these detectives are always in the service of good, seeking to discover the truth for benevolent purposes, is what makes their stories irresistible.
The bravery and wit of private investigators who manage to uncover the truth against all odds and often against dangerous villainy was a popular theme even in Victorian literature, but it has become a staple of British literature especially during the so-called “Golden Age of Detective Fiction” (1920-1930). The first one to reach public recognition was C. Auguste Dupin, created by the dark and gloomy and wonderful Edgar Allan Poe. Of course, there are also notable private investigators who were not created by British literature, or who weren’t the product of one author’s imagination but of folk fables and so on. What we’ll be presenting here is a short list of the world’s most loved fictional detectives, as they’ve managed to captivate the mind and hearts of readers and viewers everywhere.
1. Sherlock Holmes
The character was first created by Arthur Conan Doyle and then took over by many other movies, pieces of fiction and other hubs of popular culture; he remains to this day the iconic figure of the job. The name “Sherlock” has pervaded the everyday speech either as a synonym for an investigator of any sort, either as an ironic term or tease-phrase for someone who is lost, confused or inattentive to what’s around him or her. There can never be an investigator to match his recognition, but Sherlock would also never be complete without his assistant, Dr. Watson.
2. Jessica Fletcher
Interesting because she’s a female private investigator, easy to like because she’s not your typical young-and-hot bombshell that just logs hours on a screen under the cover-up of being the main character of a mystery series, Jessica Fletcher appeared in Murder, She wrote, a TV show that aired between 1984 and 1996. Though the fiction world doesn’t lack strong female bad-ass characters anymore, this witty old lady is vulnerable and charming but not any less effective than other well-known male detectives. The character was first of all a harmless mystery novel writer, but her brilliant mind also helped her solve the murder cases that somehow seemed to find their way to her, so she was more of a reluctant albeit nosey detective, and she was extremely popular with TV viewers for precisely these reasons. She can remind some people of the also wonderful Agatha Christie herself, since they’re both mystery writers.
This time, the fictional investigator is an American creation, but he was somewhat contemporary with Jessica Fletcher, as their shows were both at the peak of their popularity in the 90s. The friendly detective Colombo, of Italian descent, is so adorable to TV viewers because of his apparent clumsiness, his lack of luster appearance and his seemingly absent-minded naivety. This collection of traits is what also makes the criminals despise him and leave their guard down, but they soon discover that in spite of his playing-dumb behavior, Colombo is actually very smart and will always end up getting them.
4. Arsene Lupin
Another crowd favorite, Arsene Lupin is sort of the French counter-version of Sherlock. He was created by Maurice Leblanc at about the same time with the British detective, but the major difference between them is that Arsene is actually a gentleman thief first and foremost, and his detective skills and deeds come as somewhat as a mere chance event. He is sexy and witty and great with the ladies (and he’s played by the awesome Romain Duris in the movie adaptations), but his good heart is the trait that redeems him and makes him one of the most loved fictional detectives of all times. As we soon find out, the French rascal’s actions always lead to the capture of villains worse than he is; this makes him a bit of a Robin Hood figure.
This list of well-loved fictional detectives could also include many others, but since we want to keep it relatively short, we’ll settle these four aces for the time. Plan some reading and some movie nights if our presentation sparked curiosity or nostalgia. Enjoy.