Armchair detective

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Armchair detective is a term used for a fictional investigator who does not personally visit a crime scene or interview witnesses; instead, he or she either reads the story of the crime in a newspaper or has it recounted by another person. As the armchair detective never sees any of the investigation, the reader can attempt to solve the mystery on the same terms as the detective. [1] The phrase possibly originates in a Sherlock Holmes story from 1893, The Greek Interpreter, in which Holmes says of his brother Mycroft, "If the art of the detective began and ended in reasoning from an arm-chair, my brother would be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived."[2]

Examples of armchair detectives in fiction[edit]

"The first example of armchair detecting can be found in the work of Edgar Allan Poe. In The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842), le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin, working wholly from newspaper accounts, arrives at the correct explanation for a young woman's mysterious disappearance."[1]

Baroness Orczy's Old Man in the Corner sits in a restaurant and talks to an acquaintance about cases, almost always finishing by revealing that he has solved the crime.

A more literal use of this term can be found in Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels and novellas. He leaves all the leg work for the cases he receives to Archie Goodwin. "I would be an idiot to leave this chair, made to fit me," Wolfe says in the 1947 novella "Before I Die."


The Armchair Detective magazine was "primarily a mystery fanzine featuring articles, commentary, checklists, bibliographical material, etc., started by the legendary crime fan and bibliographer Allen J. Hubin." It was published from 1967 to 1997.[3]

Radio and Television[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Armchair Detective - Snowden's Lady's Companion, Strand, The Thirteen Problems: A literary reference website accessed December 18, 2009". Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  2. ^ "Text from the public-domain story, accessed December 18, 2009". Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  3. ^ Phil Stephensen-Payne. "A bibliographic website accessed December 18, 2009". Retrieved 2012-02-14.