Welcome to May of Mystery, an entire month dedicated to detective fiction and mystery lovers alike.
At the heart of every mystery story is a detective ready to crack the case. In detective fiction, any character can become a sleuth. Detectives can come from any background, any walk of life, and have differing methods of deduction. Let’s investigate the various types of fictional detectives, shall we? Here are 5 classic archetypes of detectives in mystery fiction.
This is somewhat an general term for any mystery solver who has no connection with law enforcement. Nor do they get paid in assisting in an investigation. These types of fictional detectives can be adventure seekers, inquisitive reporters or simply nosy neighbors. Regardless of their reason for investigating, Amateur Sleuths are guided by their curiosity and desire for knowledge and justice. Because they may lack the skills a “proper detective”, their investigations tend to be a learning experience for them.
A staple in noir fiction, the hardboiled detective is one of the more notable archetypes. All a hardboiled detective needs is a trench coat, a gun and their acholic beverage of choice. With their tough exteriors, they have a cynical outlook on the world. Their morals are grey, there is no right or wrong. Protagonists are often depicted as Anti Heroes, or characters who act in self-interest and don’t have typical heroic qualities. An untraditional knight in shining armor, if you will. Perhaps that’s why they sometimes get tangled up with Femme Fatales. Famous fiction detectives such as Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade are noted as quintessential hardboiled detectives.
Next up, the private investigator, another notable type of fictional detective. Usually self employed or cooperating alongside law enforcement, they follow their own rules and their own means of investigating and deduction. In some cases, private investigators have had previous experience working for law enforcement, and may still have connections. Most of the time, they are hired by clients who are in desperate need of their sleuthing skills. Genius great detective types, like Consulting Detective Sherlock Holmes would fit this archetype.
Little Old Lady
For a more cozy mystery, call on grandma to save the day. From years of wisdom and experience, they seem to have a knack for this mystery solving thing. Using their unassuming appearance to their advantage, they attract little attention and can work around the cops. Instead of having intense interrogations, suspects sometimes confide details on the case willingly. Constantly underestimated, who would think a sweet little old lady could crack the case? The iconic Miss Marple, created by Agatha Christie, is the perfect example of this type of fictional detective.
Often designed for a younger audience in an adventure-centric plot, a kid detective is another type of detective found in mystery fiction. Though they may not need to be an actual child, this archetype includes sleuths who are minors. These young snoops must sneak passed the suspicious adults without getting in trouble with their parents. They rely on trickery and sneaking around to obtain evidence. Being juveniles, they face difficulty asking questions of adults and convincing police that a crime was committed. The cases they take on never involve violence or truly dangerous situations, their antagonists are harmless. Some would argue that Mystery Inc. from the Scooby Doo Franchise would fall under this category.
What are you favorite types of detective characters? And for all the mystery writers out there, which archetype would you categorize your sleuth under? Talk to me in the comments. As always, I love to hear from you guys.