Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Top Five Detectives

So, here's my first "top-five" list. I'm going with five (rather than ten) to make it a bit more exclusive, so that to make the list will be a more meaningful accomplishment (I can't be bothered with judging the relative merits of 8th, 9th, and 10th place finishers). The idea for this list came from an incidental reference (to G.K. Chesterton) in Jack Niewold's very interesting comment (which I recommend your reading) to yesterday's post. I'm a big fan of literary mystery fiction, and here are my favorite detectives...
#5...Charlie Chan
I absolutely love Charlie's humility and self-effacing, oh-so-polite rhetoric. One of my deepest wishes is that Earl Derr Biggers had been more prolific, and that we could have more than a handful of stories featuring Punchbowl Hill's Charlie.
#4...Brother Cadfael
Ellis Peters' 12th-century monk and herbalist invariably manages to land himself right in the middle of intrigue, romance, and adventure (without which one wonders whether he'd ever have kept the vows committing him to celibacy and mind-numbing routine in the cloister at Shrewsbury). The easily-read novels (of which there are twenty-one by my count) have taken me through many an otherwise dreary day of riding, changing, and waiting for planes. My favorites are The Summer of the Danes and Brother Cadfael's Penance.
#3...Father Brown
Like Chan and Cadfael, Chesterton's diminuitive Catholic priest's most important detecting gift is a deep understanding of human nature. My favorite Father Brown short story is "The Honour of Israel Gow."
#2...Sherlock Holmes
I'm not a card-carrying member of any societies formed around Conan-Doyle's famous sleuth, but under different circumstances I could happily be so.
#1...Lord Peter Wimsey
Give me a comfortable chair by a warm fire and a good Dorothy Sayers novel, and I'm happy. My favorites are Gaudy Night and The Nine Tailors.

I welcome your thoughts. Who am I missing? (By the way, my favorite television detective is Peter Falk as Columbo.)

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