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Scooby Doo, Magnum PI and the 8 other 'best private detectives of all time'

  • January 11, 2007
  • by PInow Staff

The Staff at PInow.com, a worldwide directory of investigators, compiled a top 10 list of the most interesting, sexy, and cool fictional detectives and PIs of all time.

You watch them on TV, you read about them in your favourite novels and watch them on the old silver screen, but how do your favourite PIs and detectives fare against the best of the best? Read on:

10) Scooby-Doo and Those Pesky Kids (Fred "Freddie" Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, and Norville "Shaggy" Rogers). First an animated show and then a cultural phenomenon, this is where most of us first learned about private investigation. The members of Mystery, Inc., are definitely unlicensed, but few professionals make driving around in an old van and uncovering old crooks dressed as ghosts look so cool.

9) Inspector Jules Maigret. The French do it, too. Georges Simeons police inspector was streetwise, kind, and unassuming as he solved Paris's crimes and worked for the Parisian police. Created by writer Georges Simenon, Maigret appeared in seventy-five novels and twenty-eight short stories from 1931 to 1972, after which he was the star in numerous television shows. In many ways, the loveable inspector embodied all our favourite stereotypes about detectives he smoked pipes, relied as much on intuition as on technique, and often stopped by watering holes for a drink.

8) Hercule Poirot. Agatha Christie's Belgian detective appeared in more than 50 short stories and 30 novels. The very neat detective with the huge moustache and small frame was one of the eccentrics of the private eye world, worrying about his shoes and his stomach with all the fussiness of an old maid. For all that (and maybe because of it) we rather like the old chap.

7) The Shadow. The character created by Walter B. Gibson is pulp hero, appearing in movies, books, comic books, and radio shows. We love pulp heroes, and this detective was the star of the pulp fiction world through the 1930s and 1940s. With a mysterious past, the Shadow lurks out of sight, solving crimes. We love the fact that The Shadow was a hard-working detective he was featured in more than 325 books, solving hundreds of mysteries and crimes. Now thats work ethic.

6) Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade hails from the macho era of hard-boiled detectives. No great sensitivity here, just fedoras and plot twists and turns aplenty. Whether you are reading Hammett's short stories or watching or reading The Maltese Falcon, it's hard not to admire Sam. We always did like the strong, silent types.

5) Remington Steele. The title character of the TV show that made Pierce Brosnan a household name was not even a TV character at first. In the show, it is Laura Holt who is a private detective. When she finds that few clients are willing to work with a female detective, she invents an imaginary superior named Remington Steele. The fake name is eventually adopted by Brosnan's character.

4) Magnum, P.I. In this 80's television show, Thomas Magnum, played by Tom Selleck, was a private investigator working in Hawaii. Thomas Magnum preferred being called a private investigator over detective or private eye. With a tropical background and that famous, cool moustache, what's not to love about Magnum, P.I.?

3) Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote was the ultimate in nosey, loveable armchair detectives. A very prolific writer, Fletcher lived in quiet Cabot Cove, Maine, which somehow turned out to be a crime center that made NYC look tame by comparison. Who knew? Jessica was the one that taught all would-be authors that every book tour for mystery authors ended in a mystery or a murder. We also adore Angela Lansbury she made being a busybody positively glamorous (well, almost this was the 1980s).

2) Addison and Hayes. Where would we be without those wacky 80's PI shows? In the classic Moonlighting, Blue Moon Detective Agency has two partners, Madolyn 'Maddie' Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis), who solve crimes each week while bantering and flirting (while pretending not to flirt, of course). This is where all those professional but sexually tense TV relationships started way before Mulder and Scully.

1) Sherlock Holmes, the fictional character that author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle grew to hate, was the first one to make a deerstalker cap and magnifying glass something besides hopelessly geeky. Maybe his mastermind and cool, scientific reasoning made him more like a Star Trek Captain than a sexy James Bond, but at least Holmes was having fun snorting coke and playing his violin at 221B Baker Street.

There are many great fictional investigators and detectives that have adorned the big screens and television, and who have come alive through books and comics. We surely have overlooked some of your favourites.

Please comment on whom you would include on your top 10 and we will follow-up with a readers choice article.

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