Four on the Floor #4: Best P.I.s to Call When You're in a Jam

The Situation: So, you have a problem and the cops aren’t really being much of a help.  Hey, it’s understandable.  They have an entire city to look out for and you’re just one person with one problem.  Thankfully, you open the phone book, flip to the “Private Investigators” section, and try a few numbers. 

The Criteria: This is a tough one.  Most of my favorite fictional characters are detectives of one kind or another, and they’re all pretty damned good at their jobs.  But, since I could only pick four, I had to find a way to narrow the field.  First, they had to be civilians–which rules out Law & Order: Criminal Intent‘s Bobby Goren and C.S.I.‘s Gil Grissom (I know, not technically a detective, but can you tell me he wouldn’t get to the bottom of things?); it also sort of rules out Adrian Monk, since about 98% of his income comes from the SFPD.  The next criteria was style.  Some people prefer the genius detective over the two-fisted, hard-boiled type.  I think both methods have their pros and cons.  Finally, and this wasn’t a conscious decision, each of these four detectives began in print and then spread out to other media.

1. Sherlock Holmes

C’mon!  He’s the grand-daddy of all private detectives–well, if you want to nit-pick, technically ol’ Holmes was a “consulting detective.”  Holmes could look at you from three blocks away and–based on the way you were walking, the state of your clothes, and the mud on your shoes–tell you where you were five days ago.  Holmes might not be a people person (that’s Dr. Watson’s job, after all), but his tenacity, keen observation skills, and analytical mind make him an amazing detective.

2. Philip Marlowe

When I think hard-boiled, I think Philip Marlowe.  Sure, he might not be as tough as the Continental Op or Mike Hammer, but Marlowe has something that other tough guys don’t: heart.  Marlowe was the closest thing the 20th Century had to a knight: morally upright, philosophical, and able to handle himself in a tight spot. 

3. Nero Wolfe

There are times that Nero Wolfe makes Holmes look downright personable.  Weighing in at a seventh of a ton and refusing to leave his Manhattan brownstone under all but the most dire of circumstances, Wolfe can be a pain in the ass to criminals, cops, and clients alike.  But, like Holmes, Wolfe’s gruff demeanor hides an amazing analytical mind and, once he’s on the trail, Wolfe’s too stubborn to give up until the guilty party is revealed.  Of course, when you hire Wolfe, you also get his assistant and legman, the wisecracking Archie Goodwin, and Wolfe’s trio of operatives: Saul Panzer, Orrie Cather, and Fred Durkin.

4. Harry Dresden

Similar in many ways to Philip Marlowe, Harry Dresden often lets his heart and morals get him in deeper than his brain, fists, or endless stream of pop cultural references can get him out.  But, like Marlowe, Dresden will run himself to exhaustion if he’s trying to help the helpless, and he’s not afraid of going up against thieves, murderers, gangsters, vampires, werewolves, or ghouls.  Oh, didn’t I mention that Harry Dresden is also the only professional wizard to advertise in the Chicago Yellow Pages? 

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4 responses to “Four on the Floor #4: Best P.I.s to Call When You're in a Jam

  1. Sherlock Holmes is my #1 also. He’s the greatest.

    Miss Jane Marple (technically she’s a nosy old lady but I like her style)

    C. Auguste Dupin, Poe’s detective. The first detective and he has a French accent. Ooo, La la!

    Baretta– he had a parrot, a husky voice and the best arms ever to grace a tshirt until Adam Baldwin came along.

  2. I wonder if Dupin would be more popular if Poe had written more than the three short stories–he did have a good 40 years on Holmes.

    And, as TV P.I.s go, I think I would go to Jim Rockford before anyone else–he lived in a trailer on the beach and had a business card machine in the back seat of his car…what’s not to like?

  3. I actually waffled on Rockford or Baretta for awhile. I finally went for Baretta because I’m a sucker for sexy arms but if there had been 5 spots I would have added Rockford.

  4. Sometimes it’s hard to narrow these things down to just four.

    And nothing wrong with being a sucker for sexy arms…we all have our priorities. Heck, if Summer Glau was a P.I., she’d be number one on my list in a heartbeat.

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