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  • I'm a big fan of the Nick and Nora Charles in the Thin Man movies. They paved the way for Moonlighting and its historic television run.

  • I just saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie and I really liked it. Nothing like the literary Holmes, of course, but still an entertaining movie. They could have ignored the Sherlock reference and still have had a sleek detective movie. More like 19th century Batman than anything.

    Hmmm…should Batman have been on this list?

  • Porfiry Petrovitch?

    Nero Wolfe?

    Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee?

    Charlie Chan?




    Sir Peter Wimsey?

    Gervase Fen?

    Richard Jury and Melrose Plant?

    Adam Dalgliesh?


    • Debbie

      Amen! I was going to mention some of those. 🙂 I also like Emerson & Peabody from Elisabeth Peters' books.

      • Thanks. I'll have to get my hands on a Peters book.

    • Dude

      It's the top ten, and since I know almost none of your picks I can safe they don't deserve to be on the list.

      • Lizzie

        You need to read the classics!!!!

  • Gadfly22

    Sam Spade gets the attention as a Hammett creation because of the success of "The Maltese Falcon". But the Hammett detective who appears in many more stories is The Continental Op. He also arguably has the more distinguished movie resume — indirectly.

    "Red Harvest" — a Continental Op novel first published as a serial in The Black Mask magazine — is the inspiration for "Yojimbo" (though that fact is not 100% verifiable), which in turn inspired "A Fistful of Dollars" and "Last Man Standing".

  • Lou

    Sherlock Holmes is so influential he's still the model for characters in at least three hit shows: Robert Goren in Law & Order: CI, Dr. Gregory House in House, and Patrick Jane in The Mentalist.

    • @Lou – good point and good citation of examples. Once you think about it, it really is elementary.

  • Sherlock Holmes is still the best, in my opinion. The new movie is okay, but a little too much slambang action for my taste. With Holmes, it's the intellect that counts. Also, they made Watson more of an equal to Holmes, instead of a bumbling fussbudget. I like a Watson who's properly in awe of his great friend's mind.

  • Lou

    Watson as a "bumbling fussbudget" was more of an invention of Nigel Bruce, the actor who played Watson in the films with Basil Rathbone. In the stories by Doyle (and a lot of authors who have written Holmes stories) he IS more of an equal. Doesn't mean he isn't still in awe of Holmes' mind.

    The series with Jeremy Brett was rightly hailed as being "return to form" as Watson was seen as "normalizing" Holmes and his eccentricities. Wish I could remember the actor's name who played him. : (

    • Claire

      David Birth and Edward Hardwicke. Birth being the better portrayal of the two. They look nearly identical.

  • Jury & Plant! My personal all times #1! A much as I love the rest, nothing compares to them.

    • You might want to lay your hands on some Edmund Crispin novels.

    • Dude

      Again, it's a TOP TEN list, and since I have no idea who they are and don't care, they don't deserve to be included. I can't stand people with their obviously obscure picks and think they deserve Top Ten status.

    • Dude

      Again, it's a TOP TEN list, they are unknown and don't deserve inclusion.

  • My favorite is Chandler's Marlowe – actually all of Raymond Chandler's stories are amazing if you love hard-boiled detective fiction. And, of course, Humphrey Bogart portrayed my favorite detective on film (it was just his birthday on December 25th and a great day to watch some of his classic movies).

  • moose

    You can be a fan of Paretsky all you want but she (and scores of others) owes quite a lot to Marcia Muller, often considered the godmother off (American) female writers writing female detectives.

  • Trazz

    what about alex cross?

  • keyshock

    Encyclopedia Brown!

  • Ironically, you ignored the very first of fiction's great detectives: Edgar Allen Poe's C. Auguste Dupin. He starred in only three stories-"The Murders in the Rue Morgue", "The Purloined Letter" and "The Mystery of Marie Roget"- but Doyle partly fashioned Holmes on Dupin (Doyle was inspired by his real-life teacher, Dr. Joseph Bell), and Dupin was the template for all the great slueths to come.

    Also, there's Sergeant Cuff of Wilkie Collins' "The Moonstone" (the first full-length detective novel) and G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown, the seemingly absent-minded Catholic priest who was one of the inspirations for TV's Columbo.

    • YogiBarrister

      Thank you Terry! That the author didn't include Dupin means he or she was unqualified to make this list to begin with. It's an inexcusable omission.

      • I think many of our readers use absolute words they don't really mean.

        Anne is a published writer and well-read in this area. She is qualified to write a list of literary detectives.

        If you don't agree with it, that is your choice. And really, is the word inexcusable the right choice of word? There are few things in life that are truly inexcusable. This site is for entertainment purposes and the authors do the their best to write lists that our viewers will find enjoyable and some times thought-provoking. Try to remember this when criticizing them with words such as "unqualified" and "inexcusable".

        As I commented early, I welcome another list on literary detectives to compliment this one. YogiBarrister, are you the person to write it?

        • YogiBarrister

          Inexcusable IS the correct word. It's an inexcusable omission for this particular list, it doesn't mean the author is a bad person. If you are making a top-ten list about literary detetectives, you simply must include Dupin and mention the fact that Poe invented the genre. You might also consider referencing the books more than the movies.

          • We will have to agree to disagree. I find it hard to believe any omission is inexcusable on list that is subjective to personal tastes. Her tastes aren't yours, it is simple as that. I noticed you didn't reply to my suggestion that you write a list. That would be the best solution to fix this "inexcusable" omission. I ask once again, will you?

          • Dude

            I feel your OUTRAGE that he's not included!! Ace Ventura should be on the top ten as well.

          • Dude

            I am sure you were typing with one hand and patting yourself on the back with another while you're commenting.

        • YogiBarrister

          TTM, on most top ten lists there are people or things that absolutely must be included. For example; a list of the greatest NY Yankee hitters without Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle would have no informative or entertainment value. It would like omitting Sherlock Holmes from this one. I'll admit, Dupin is not familiar to a lot of modern readers (another reason to include him), but because Poe invented the genre with this very character, he was an anchor candidate. It's not really the author's prerogative to omit him.

          I withdraw the comment about Ms. Iredale's qualifications. If I were her editor though, I wouldn't have published it until the mistake was corrected. BTW I'm not a troll, if I bother to post an opinion, or correction as is the case here, it's only because I'm interested. It's better to get twenrty-five comments saying your list sucks than one praising it to the high heavens.

          • Dude

            I could say the same thing for not including Batman! Who cares that Poe invented the genre and created the first detective, the fact is he's NOT famous is enough reason not to include him. I can't stand you literary snobs who come up with obscure picks so you can feel superior to everyone else.

          • Walter

            I agree with the dude here. this aggression against the list’s writer will not stand, man. And i remember reading ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ when i was a child then thought: “killer Orangutan? what?lame! and he even spell it wrong! (I’m Indonesian)”. but his other stories did put a goose bump on my wee neck.

          • Chris Schweizer

            Dupin being the first literary detective doesn’t qualify for a top ten list, because he doesn’t really detect, at least not in the literary sense. He explains what happens, but (and it’s been some time since I read Rue Morgue) does so in a way that does not showcase any sort of deductive reasoning. As I said, it’s been quite a while since I read it, but doesn’t he just say, in effect “A ha! It was a killer ape,” telling us what happened but in no way enunciating the means by which he arrived at that conclusion? He’s more of a plot device to reveal the twist than a character in and of himself, the way that the others on the list are.

  • Jayme

    What about Alex Cross in James Patterson books

  • Apart from the ones mentioned above, Nero Wolfe, Father Brown, Inspector Maigret and C Auguste Dupin, what about Monsieur Lecoq, Martin Beck and Kurt Wallander, to name just three more? I suppose ten is too small a number for a list like this. If ten of us were to put our tens together, I wonder how many there will be in common and how many we will have in all?

    • I would gladly accept another list with 10 more detectives. I'm amazed that there are so many more that weren't in this list. Any takers on writing a second list of 10 great literary detectives?

  • I'm blown away by the depth of knowledge from the readers.

  • Gwen

    I was disappointed to not see Ed McBain on this list. He is a literal detective. Wrote a great series of novels about the 82nd prcnt. Over 100 novels over many years. I loved these books. Sherlock Is the only one on this list that I enjoy reading. I'm not blown away by this list this time.

  • The Department of Oc

    I really can't see beyond Sherlock Holmes. The man used to solve crimes without even leaving the comfort of his drawing room!

  • Girl

    My Pick for Top 3:
    Hercule Poirot <3
    Nancy Drewww – good times reading the books until early morning under the covers with a torch. :')
    && Sherlock Holmes.

    A good article. Haters, keep the obscure detectives for your personal lists.

  • Peter

    Dupin is not obscure. He is the most famous character ever created by the guy who invented the genre. If you don’t know who Dupin is, then you aren’t qualified to discuss literary detectives, since Dupin is the original, and was the model for many of the included characters, Holmes included. Only buffoons use “snob” to mean “someone who knows more than I.” Omitting Dupin was a mistake. There is no way around it.

  • skywatcher

    Dupin appeared in three short stories more than 170 years ago. You can’t get much more obscure than that. More important, historical value shouldn’t be a consideration. It’s a Top Ten list. Ed McBain wrote mainly procedurals:. Interesting characters, but no one who belongs on this list. Batman is mainly sci-fi; other elements eclipse his detecting abilities as with Steed and Peel, Dekker, etc.

  • Peter

    Edgar Allan Poe stories are “obscure.” Ha.

  • Lizzie

    People need to read more of the genre. And, superheroes don’t quallify. It has to have an elegance and intrigue to it!!!!!!!