Coming Soon: 100 Greatest Literary Detectives

I just saw online today the cover and the release date for: 100 Greatest Literary Detectives ed. by Eric Sandberg. This is especially exciting news as I was lucky enough to be able to contribute to this work, writing a piece on Juanita Sheridan’s Lily Wu.
This is the blurb on Amazon:

Crime fiction is one of the most popular literary genres today, and has been so for more than a century. At the heart of almost all forms of mysteries, from the Golden Age puzzler to the contemporary police procedural, from hardboiled to the Japanese timetable mystery, is the investigator. He–or, increasingly, she–can be a private eye, a police officer, or a general busybody. The detective is, in fact, the key element in crime fiction; while criminals and their crimes come and go, with a few notable exceptions, the primary interest in crime novels is focused on investigators, those fascinating characters who exist at the intersection of so many different literary and social roles. 100 Greatest Literary Detectives offers a selection of the most influential, most important, and most intriguing fictional sleuths–amateur or professional–from around the world. From Sherlock Holmes to Jules Maigret, the detectives profiled here will give readers a broader picture of the many faces of these essential characters in one of fiction’s most popular genres. Each entry summarizes the distinctive features of a notable investigator and their approach to crime, provides a brief outline of major features of their fictional careers, and makes a case for their greatness based on factors such as literary-historical importance, novelty, uniqueness, aesthetic quality, or cultural resonance. The characters profiled here include Lew Archer, Father Brown, Brother Cadfael, Adam Dalgliesh, Stephanie Delacour, Mike Hammer, Miss Jane Marple, Kinsey Millhone, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, Kay Scarpetta, Sam Spade, Phillip Trent, V. I. Warshawski, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Nero Wolfe. Whether seasoned fans or new to the genre, readers will find some of their favorite detectives here, learn more about their literary and cultural significance, and will expand their reading world into uncharted territory as they discover great detectives old and new, local and international. 100 Greatest Literary Detectives offers a fascinating look into some of the most intriguing fictional characters of all time.

I am anticipating this to be an interesting and thought provoking read. I only know about a few of the detectives, (modern and vintage), who made the cut, so I am excited to see who else made the list. I am also looking forward to seeing how these 100 are justified their positions, as I imagine people have different criteria for this aspect.

Hopefully more will be appearing on the blog about the book nearer the time. Copies are available for pre-order now from Amazon and at the moment seems like it will be released on the 15th April in the UK at least. Not sure about America.

So the big question is who do you think should be on the list? (Not that I am expecting to give me a Top 100 list or anything, though if you have the time or need an excuse to procrastinate do feel free to do so!)

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16 comments

  1. A pity that no sleuth by Carr has made the list? Though I suppose the compilation isn’t technically concerned with the best detective, but the detective with literary and cultural significance…

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  2. I’m astonished that a book could be titled “100 Greatest Literary Detectives” and even think about not including Fell or Merrivale. If there’s a possibility of not including them, then I severely doubt there will be any sign of my suggestions. I suppose you have to ask how one defines “Greatest” – a quick Google reveals that the aforementioned Lily Wu certainly sounds important in the genre, but can one be one of the greatest detectives if you only appear in four books? I’d be much more interested in reading the section about how the 100 were chosen, to be honest, rather than the individual entries…

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    • Well, in the Amazon listing, the names of 20 included detectives are mentioned. No mention of either Fell or Merrivale. But Poirot, Marple, Ellery Queen, and Father Brown are mentioned.

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    • As you can see from Stefano’s comment, Dr Fell’s entry is confirmed. As to how I define Greatest I do not base that on number of stories nor how popular they are – otherwise the book would be 100 most popular detectives, which is not what the book is trying to do. As to Wu’s number fictional outings, I would point out that Dupin only starred in a few short stories, yet it would be unheard of for him to not be included. Lily Wu as you say is important to the genre. In the 40s and 50s, it is a rarity to see a young Chinese woman made to be a central detective and not one burdened down with stereotypes. Nor she is hampered by having to have a marriage or romance plot. Both these areas make her stand out and worthy of a place in the book in my opinion, a book which is trying to look at detectives from around the world and avoid becoming US/UK/White character centric. No doubt the editor in the introduction will comment on how the entries were chosen.

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  3. I have no idea about Merrivale, but Dr Fell is on the list. you’ll find him on pages 63-64, right between Kare Fansler and Gervase Fen. I know it only because I wrote Fell’s entry 😉

    Liked by 2 people

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