I am an avid reader of detective fiction and police thrillers. I like to pit my wits against the detective and try to solve the murder before they do. So I thought I’d list my favourite detectives and why I enjoy reading their cases so much.
1. I have to start with the first detective I remember reading and that is Miss Marple. As a teenager I read everything Agatha Christie wrote and loved them all. I was in awe of the talent for character and plot she had although I didn’t know that’s what she was doing. Of course I liked Poirot but he was harder to love than Miss Marple. The image of the little old lady knitting and solving the most gruesome murders while she did was most attractive. I loved the way people opened up to her without knowing that she had a mind like a steel trap and was seeing through all their lies and schemes. Even today I love watching her on TV and my favourite TV Marple is Joan Hickson. She is just as I imagined Jane Marple when I read about her as a young woman.
2. My second choice is Martin Beck. He was my introduction to Swedish detective fiction and I read all the novels back to back. Set in the 1960s and 70s these novels are beautifully crafted and the characters really grow as the series proceeds. Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo also use their novels to shine a light on the work of the police and also to comment on the Swedish welfare state. They had quite left wing views and were very critical of the way some elements of society were treated.
3. Third is Harry Hole, the Norwegian detective in the novels of Jo Nesbo. He is an example of the maverick Scandinavian detective, brilliant but troubled, cutting corners and bending the rules in pursuit of a result. He has few friends, a complicated love life and smokes and drinks more than is good for him, I love the flawed nature of the man who solves crimes and doesn’t care who he upsets along the way.
4. More Scandi detective fiction but we travel over to Iceland where we find Erlendur Sveinsson, the creation of Arnaldur Indridason. Never referred to as anything other than Erlendur he is the most troubled detective I have read about. He is troubled by events in his past and haunted by the loss of his brother. There is a deep sadness about him. He fights personal demons while dealing with the worst that Icelandic society has to offer. His relationship with his ‘side-kick’ Sigurdur Oli is fascinating and Oli gets his own story eventually.
5. I wondered long and hard about who to include as my final choice. I could have changed the number and added lots of other detectives I’ve enjoyed reading. But I decided to keep the list short so I am left with only one slot to fill. And I guess I have to include Sherlock Holmes. I came late to the writings of Conan Doyle; I was aware of Holmes through film and TV before I read the stories they came from. My favourite Holmes is Jeremy Brett – he seems just the right side of madness as Holmes and his relationship with Watson is closest to the stories in my opinion. I have a very soft spot for the recent Sherlock but that has more to do with Benedict Cumberbatch than Sherlock Holmes! Like many people I have a favourite Holmes story and for me it’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. I love the eerie moor, the phantom hound and escaped convict: what more could you want from a Sherlock Holmes story?
So there they are, my favourite detectives. Who’s on your list? Have I left anyone out that you think I should read?