Hypothetical scenario: you are about to be murdered, no way around it, but before the deed is done, you can select (1) fictional detective to investigate and, hopefully, solve your murder. It can be a police detective or a private detective (professional or amateur sleuths allowed). So there are the rules of the hypothetical. Who you pickin’? Below are my choices. Feel free to agree or disagree.
- Sherlock Holmes. An obvious choice, yes, but here are my reasons. A) His track record for solving cases, even seemingly impossible ones, is impeccable. In fact, I don’t think he’s ever failed to solve a case, so if I’m laying dead on the library floor in some British countryside home, give me the cocaine-using dude from 221 Baker Street. B) He is a sociopath, which in certain professions, namely, medicine, law, and yes, detective work, is a big asset. Again, if I task someone with solving my murder, I do not want them to form an emotional attachment to me or the case. I want them to remain impassive and impartial. I want them to focus all their energy on the evidence. After all, let’s face it: one of the principal drawbacks of being a human is our tendency to allow emotions to cloud judgment. Holmes, he don’t do that. Ever. Probably why his record is spotless.
- Miss Marple. Agatha Christie’s detective is an elderly spinster and an amateur gumshoe, all of which, for my money, work to her advantage. Here’s why. First, because she is very old and innocent-looking, she can extract information–from police, from suspects, from witnesses–without encountering too much resistance. And it is a good thing she doesn’t have a husband or partner, who would, in all likelihood, only attempt to talk her out of taking on a dangerous case, such as the murder of Yours Truly. Too, she’s super smart, relentless, and unlike Holmes, she is keenly aware of the psychological motivations for crimes, which is an area that Holmes tends to ignore. Fortunately for Holmes (and his clients), Sherlock is ALWAYS the smartest guy in the room, so psych profiles aren’t needed.
- Philip Marlowe. Yeah, he drinks. And smokes. And he gets his head turned quite easily by the fairer sex. Those are his negatives. Here are the pluses, which far outweigh the minuses. One, despite his flaws, he has a strong moral compass and a personal code he lives by, no matter what. Bottom line, Marlowe takes your case, he will break his neck to solve it. Period. Two, he is a private detective. Meaning, he isn’t affiliated with the police force, and therefore, not bound by its rigid and, in some case, ludicrous laws, rules, and regulations. Read Chandler’s books featuring Marlowe, and you’ll see the theme of legal versus moral come up often. Three, Marlowe is both intelligent AND streetwise, which separates him from both Holmes and Marple because Marlowe can operate on the meanstreets. . .you know, where murders tend to happen.
- Mike Hammer. The reasons he is on my list are thus: he is violent, vengeful, driven, and tougher than a three-dollar steak at Waffle House. Ask yourself this: if you get killed, wouldn’t you want someone to get vengeance on the murderer? Enough said.
- C.W. Sughrue. Well, Sughrue (as in “Sugar, you’ll rue the day you met me!) is just my absolute favorite detective. He’s just f-ing cool. A Vietnam Vet. A functional alcoholic. A road warrior. He’s a smartass, but secretly is a romantic. He’s a Man’s Man and a Lady’s Man. Read the first chapter in The Last Good Kiss. If you don’t agree with me that Sughrue is the coolest character ever, then you’re an idiot.