The Top Five Alternative Detectives in Crime Fiction

Dirk Gently

Whilst classic detective fiction has always been a real favourite of mine, over recent years I have grown fond of creative versions of popular Crime Fiction styles. It’s always exciting to find something new, and although I love new takes on traditional genres, it is also great to see people subverting the style. Check out my top five alternative detectives, which I hope will introduce you to something new or throw up an old favourite.

5. Hercule Poirot: Agatha Christie’s spectacularly weird Belgium sleuth may not seem a likely contender for a list about alternative detectives, but even nowadays this strange little man with the egg shaped head, formidable moustache and penchant for order and neatness is considered unusual. In 1920, when The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the first novel to feature this peculiar detective, was published this character was considered decidedly odd. Christie then went on to write novels featuring an elderly female detective, Miss Marple, which again subverted the tradition of having white, middle aged protagonists that had been prevalent in the genre for many years.

4. Cadfael: The monk turned detective is an innovative invention, but also rather unusual. Formerly a solider and man of the world, this newly appointed holy man works to uncover the truth during a series of twisted cases. A talented herbalist and sharp eyed observer of people, he uses his talents in both his roles to delve into the murkiest mysteries that the 12th Century monastic setting in which he lives is.

3. Thorpe Hazell: Victor L. Whitechurch’s Railway Detective is strange and unusual, but he has a sweet charm that makes the short stories in which he seeks out everything from kidnapped children through to missing paintings so enjoyable. A staunch vegetarian and train enthusiast, this enigmatic little man can untangle even the most complex of problems.

2. Monsieur Pamplemousse: Created by Michael Bond, the writer behind Paddington Bear, ‘Mr Grapefruit’ and his intuitive bloodhound, Pommes Frites, go on a number of light hearted adventures in this vast series of novels and stories. As a food inspector and gourmet extraordinaire, Monsieur Pamplemousse is often called in to investigate culinary conundrums that would baffle even the most astute of readers.

1. Dirk Gently: Douglas Adams’s quirky detective, who runs a Holistic Detective Agency that works on the power of coincidence to uncover the truth, is both witty and enticing. Don’t be put off by the two abysmal TV adaptations; neither the Netflix version nor its BBC predecessor do the novels any justice. Adam’s is very skilled at taking tried and tested tropes and distorting them, creating interesting and unique tales that are both fascinating and memorable.

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