Finding a recurring character in a series you love is like finding a new best friend. And when that character just happens to be a crime-chasing detective, all of a sudden you’re the left-hand man in a world where life and death is constantly at stake.
As connoisseurs of classic crime, we’ve spent a fair amount of time alongside the best of the best in England’s fictional murder-solving world. So, if you’re looking for someone new to buddy-up with as we approach the holiday season (i.e. the perfect time to hide away with a stack of books), here are some of the best detectives in crime fiction that we think you’ll become fast friends with:
Though he was supposedly created as a parody of Dorothy Sayers’ detective Lord Peter Wimsey, we find that Albert Campion holds his own as one of the crime fiction detective greats (in fact, one of his mysteries, The Tiger in the Smoke, was just named a top ten golden age detective novel!). Often described as bland with a blank expressions (frankly relatable characteristics), Campion presents an entirely unique form of golden age detective. Rather than relying on bold personality, he’s resourceful, and uses both kindness and an innate sense of authority to get where he needs to go. Also, at one point, he owns a pet jackdaw named Autolycus; so he’s just straight up cool. Campion is the investigator that we wish we could be friends with and love accompanying through his various mysteries.
We recommend Hide My Eyes — Campion finds himself chasing a serial killer lurking among London’s atmospheric theatre-land.
Inspector Littlejohn is our guy because we’ve never met anyone who loves a French holiday more. Unfortunately for him and his wife, he simply cannot say no to solving a bit of crime while there. Traipsing around England, the Isle of Man, and France, Littlejohn sleuths his way through the most perplexing of cases. He takes on his jobs with a level head, asking the right questions and ignoring the red herrings that a common detective might get wrapped up in. What we love most, though, is that he’s genuinely funny. He’s got a sharp tongue and that dry, British sense of humour that stings in person but is perfect on page.
We recommend A Knife for Harry Dodd — a man silently dies of a literal backstabbing and more suspects than Littlejohn can handle pile up, but could there be more than one killer on the loose?
We’re blurring the lines on this one a bit as, technically, Nigel Strangeways is what you might call an amateur sleuth. While not actually employed by any detective agency in a permanent manner, he’s happy to be hired freelance for friends, the police (whom he has a rather chummy relationship with), or, honestly, any acquaintance with a crime that needs solving. He doesn’t shy away from getting personal, either. The Strangeways Mysteries are peppered with glimpses into the sleuth’s private world, which has its own fair share of drama and is widely rumoured to be influenced by the author’s own misadventures in love and marriage. Our favourite trait of Strangeways’ though, is his focus on the psychological. Rather than walking into a crime scene and assessing the physical, Strangeways dives deep into the mind of his suspects, making his adventures an interesting collection of insight into the heads of killers.
We recommend The Beast Must Die — a crime writer plots the perfect murder then finds himself at the center of an actual investigation. Bonus: it’s soon to be made into a TV series, so now’s the perfect time to acquaint yourself with Strangeways!
Detective Inspector Appleby
We love to sink into an Inspector Appleby mystery on those days where we’re just looking for a little something more. Appleby rarely encounters an open-and-shut case. His detective life is full of wild cards, from split-personalities to haunted houses, or from high-intensity chases to South American jungle explorations. While he presents himself as rather high-brow, we find him to be full of humour, wit and inventiveness. If you can bear Sherlock Holme’s occasional pomposity, you’ll feel right at home with Appleby.
As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with what you love about your favourite crime fiction detective!