10 Best Fictional Detectives

My Top 10 List: Fictional Detectives:

Monday - Mystery, Murder & Mayhem

What makes some of the best fictional detectives tick? What are the flaws they must overcome in order to solve the mystery? They always catch the The bad Guys

We fall in love with our favorite detectives because of and in spite of their quirks, ticks, habits, mannerisms. Whatever it is, we keep coming back for more — from our favorite detectives. 

My list of The Best Fictional Detectives: In no Particular Order

1. Andy Sipowitz - NYPD Blue. Andy begins the show as a sloppy drunk. His own partner is fed up with him. He’s gruff,  a racist, a bigot, and never says the right thing. He does solve cases. His character transforms more than any other over his nine years on NYPD Blue, I can’t think of another fictional detective whose undergone such a dramatic character transformation. Perhaps it was losing his son. Or the murder of his wife. Or losing his best friend and partner. Or maybe it was when he married Connie and they became a family of five.  For whatever reason, Andy softens & becomes more tolerable. This is evidenced by his very real friendship with the John, the gay PPA (police public assistant). Despite his flaws he’s fiercely loyal, even to those he believes don’t like him or have wronged him.  He takes up for African American Lt. Fancy — they were at each other’s throats for much of the show. He even goes to bat for his superior, a former Internal Affairs Investigator when he discovers he’s gay. 

2. Robert Goren - Law and Order— Criminal Intent- Bobby is different. He’s smart enough to solve every crime but it is usually his intuition and controversial interrogation techniques that lead to the suspect’s confession. When he’s on the scene, absolutely nothing is overlooked. He has a unique sense of smell. Bobby was never well liked by his colleagues and with his brother’s death, his mother’s mental illness and discovering that he’s the son of a serial killer, Bobby finally spiraled out of control. His love/hate relationship with recurring character, Nicole Wallace, his nemeses, the cold and calculated murderer were always my favorite episodes. 

3. Carrie Mathison - Homeland -While not actually a detective, Carrie Mathison is an agent with the CIA and she hunts terrorists. She’s a little crazy, but that adds to her depth and charm. The character suffers from bipolar disorder and it’s rather refreshing to see a show truly focus on the disease and how if affects the person suffering from the disease, but also her family and friends and those around here. We get to see how Carrie works to solve cases when she is manic and off her meds. Regardless of her condition she attacks every case with a reckless need to solve the case at all cost and it’s a pleasure to watch Claire Danes in this role. Her bipolar disorder causes her to become overly obsessed with suspects. She fell in love with the man she hunted as a terrorist — she’d pegged him early on. She foresaw Brody turning on his country. Because of her obsession and her inability to control her spontaneous knee-jerk actions and reactions, No one believed her about Brody. 

4. Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe - Best know for his part in hardboiled crime fiction. My favorite book/movie staring this character is The Big Sleep. They don’t make em’ like Marlowe anymore. He’s a wise ass, hard drinking, smart as hell, womanizing detective from the old days. His gruffness is softened a little when he’s with women he loves and by his love of poetry and chess. 

5. Colombo. His overcoat and overall disheveled appearance give him the advantage as many criminals underestimate him. He’s know for the famous line, “Oh and I just one more thing.” He always has that one last question that knocks his suspect off guard.

6. Raylan Givens - Justified - Raylan first appeared in Elmore Leonard’s novel Pronto (1993) then reappeared in Fire in the Hole. The television show Justified is a spin off from the character in Fire in the Hole. Raylan breaks all the rules and doesn’t fit the profile of a federal law enforcement officer. He’s true, authentic and gets the job done. A sexy cowboy who can talk his way out of just about any situation — and if that fails, he’s an excellent marksman.  He’s loyal to the few who’ve earned his loyalty. He’s by far a good guy and we want him on our side, but he’s not above breaking a few laws to get the bad guy. For Justified’s Raylan Givens — The end JUSTIFIES the means.

7. Monk - Monk suffers from OCD and his obsessive compulsive disorder allows him to notice clues and things that just don’t fit the crime scene that other detectives overlook. It also provides comedic relief during tense situations.

8. Dave Robicheaux - From the author James Lee Burke, Robicheaux has appeared in numerous novels and some films. He’s a cynical recovering alcoholic who trolls the swamps of Louisiana, in New Iberia. He breaks all the rules, bends the law, but he catches the bad guy.

9. Harry Bosch - Hieronymous Bosch, half brother to the flawed defense attorney Micky Haller from Michael Connely’s books and film, The Lincoln Lawyer. Harry grew up with a prostitute mother and didn’t know who his father was. He’s cynical, but he’s one of the good guys and he’s often up against not only the bad guys, but his own people on the force including his boss. He always catches the dirt bag, bad guy.

Harry’s Motto: “Everybody counts or nobody counts.”

10. Debra Morgan - Dexter - Foul mouthed, uncouth, sharp, witty, intelligent detective who had to claw her way to the top. She lived in her brother’s (Dexter — the serial killer, blood spatter expert) shadow. She’s flawed. She always felt their dad preferred Dexter over her. She makes horrible choices in men, but her intuition is always spot on. Talk about a flawed detective. Debra’s entire stint can be seen as her trying to prove to herself, her brother, her colleagues and her dead father that she’s every bit as good as the rest of the boys. She’s crass, vulgar, headstrong and determined, but she’s also emotionally raw and lonely. She spends all her time trying to prove herself worthy, when she’s already one of the best, if not the best detective in the group. 

Who are your favorite fictional detectives? What do you like about them? Is it the way they act, talk, dress, fool the bad guys? 

Part 2 of my Sweet 16 Party Planning & Prep work will be on Thursday. I initially said it would be Tuesday. If you missed Part 1 Sweet 16 Party Planning Ideas you can read it here.


  1. Hi Melissa - most of those I don't know ... I watch NYPD occasionally when I want to switch off ... then we've our British ones - again I don't often watch ... I guess Perry Mason and Kojak don't fall into your category ... Colombo definitely has my vote - that raincoat is unforgettable!

    Cheers Hilary

    1. Actually Perry Mason and Kojak were the next two on my list, but I had to shorten it. I loved Telly Savalas and the sucker he always had in his mouth. Now I know I'm showing my age, LOL.

  2. I haven't heard of many of those, which makes me happy as I like detective fiction and now have more to discover.

    1. My choices highlighted many of the detectives who cross the lines and bend the rules. My list had 35 so I had to cut it down to so the post wouldn't be too long.

  3. Columbo! Nice.
    For fictional detectives, I have to go with a classic - Sherlock Holmes.

    1. I almost titled my article "My favorite Detectives who are not Sherlock Holmes," b/c he is an obvious favorite of everyone. Then I noticed that someone else already wrote an article with the exact same title or one very similar, so I just left Holmes off my list and out of the title. But, He is clearly a classic and a favorite of mine.

  4. I enjoy some TV and novel mysteries. One of the oddest I ever watched and liked was from the UK; it was called Midsomer Murders. It's tame compared to most US mystery or police shows, but it's funny and enjoyable. Give it a try sometime!

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I noticed the name pop up on Netflix, where they recommend shows based on shows you've already watched. I think I will watch it now.

  5. Nice picks! I'm trying to think of another one to add but could only come up with Holmes, as Alex did.

  6. I loved reading this. I guess I'd add Poirot, Colombo and Rockford. They were each so different, but great to watch in action.

  7. I loved reading this. I guess I'd add Poirot, Colombo and Rockford. They were each so different, but great to watch in action.


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