Fictional detectives are characters in detective fiction. These characters have long been a staple of detective mystery crime fiction, particularly in detective novels and short stories. Much of early detective fiction was written during the "Golden Age of Detective Fiction" (1920s-1930s). These detectives include amateurs, private investigators and professional policemen. They are often popularized as individual characters rather than parts of the fictional work in which they appear. Stories involving individual detectives are well-suited to dramatic presentation, resulting in many popular theatre, television, and movie characters.
The first famous detective in fiction was Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin. Later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes became the most famous example to this day. The detectives are often accompanied by a Dr. Watson-like assistant or narrator. However, in several of her novels where he appears, Agatha Christie gives reference to Hercule Poirot being the greatest detective in all the world.
Fictional detectives generally fit one of four archetypes:
- The amateur detective (Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, Lord Peter Wimsey); From outside the field of criminal investigation, but gifted with knowledge, curiosity, desire for justice, etc.
- The private investigator (Cordelia, Holmes, Marlowe, Spade, Poirot, Magnum, Millhone); Works professionally in criminal and civic investigations, but outside the criminal justice system.
- The police detective (Dalgliesh, Kojak, Morse, Columbo, Frost, Clouseau); Part of an official investigative body, charged with solving crimes.
- The forensic specialist (Scarpetta, Quincy, Cracker, CSI teams, Thorndyke); Affiliated with investigative body, officially tasked with specialized scientific results rather than solving the crime as a whole.
Notable fictional detectives and their creators include:
- Boston Blackie – reformed jewel thief, created by Jack Boyle
- Rosemary Boxer – with Laura Thyme, gardening detective, created by Brian Eastman
- Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley – widowed socialite, created by Gladys Mitchell
- Father Brown – Catholic priest, created by English novelist G. K. Chesterton. Stars in 51 detective short stories
- Encyclopedia Brown - boy detective Leroy Brown, nicknamed "Encyclopedia" for his intelligence and range of knowledge.
- Cadfael – early 12th-century monk solves murders and social problems, created by Ellis Peters, also known as Edith Pargeter.
- Jonathan Creek – creative consultant to a magician, in a British TV series by the same name, written by David Renwick.
- Nancy Drew – High school sleuth, created by Edward Stratemeyer.
- C. Auguste Dupin – upper class character created by Edgar Allan Poe. Dupin made his first appearance in Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841), widely considered the first detective fiction story.
- Dr Gideon Fell – "lexicographer" and drinker, created by John Dickson Carr
- Jessica Fletcher – writer, created by William Link and Richard Levinson for Murder, She Wrote TV series (1984-1996)
- Beverly Gray – protagonist of the Beverly Gray Mystery series by Clair Blank
- Jonathan & Jennifer Hart – millionaire couple, created by Sidney Sheldon
- Patrick Jane – con artist, created by Bruno Heller for The Mentalist TV series
- Sally Lockhart – teenage girl, created by Philip Pullman
- Miss Marple – a small town old spinster who solves a number of crimes using common sense, created by Agatha Christie
- Veronica Mars – school girl whose father is a private detective, created by Rob Thomas
- Amelia Peabody – Egyptologist who solves a variety of dastardly crimes in turn-of-the-century Egypt, created by Elizabeth Peters.
- Ellery Queen – author and editor of a magazine, created by two writers, using the pseudonym Ellery Queen
- Easy Rawlins – black WWII veteran from Houston. All stories take place in Los Angeles during the 50s & 60s. Created by Walter Mosley.
- Joseph Rouletabille – journalist created by French writer Gaston Leroux. Main character in The Mystery of the Yellow Room.
- Laura Thyme – with Rosemary Boxer, gardening detective, created by Brian Eastman
- Dr. John Thorndyke – medical doctor who trained to become a forensic specialist, created by R. Austin Freeman
- Philip Trent – gentleman sleuth created by E. C. Bentley
- Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen – created by Jacques Futrelle
- Hetty Wainthropp – retired working-class woman, created by David Cook
- Lord Peter Wimsey – wealthy English gentleman, created by Dorothy L. Sayers, assisted by his valet (and batman from WW1) Bunter and then Harriet Vane
- Misir Ali – part-time professor of psychology at University of Dhaka, created by Humayun Ahmed
- David Addison in Moonlighting – created by Glenn Gordon Caron
- Byomkesh Baksi – created by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay
- Batman - Greatest Detective in the DC Universe - created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger
- Tommy and Tuppence Beresford – created by Agatha Christie
- Jackson Brodie – created by Kate Atkinson
- Albert Campion – created by Margery Allingham
- Nick & Nora Charles – created by Dashiell Hammett
- The Continental Op – created by Dashiell Hammett
- Elvis Cole – created by Robert Crais
- Bulldog Drummond – created by H. C. McNeile
- Feluda – created by Satyajit Ray
- Gogol (Detective) - created by Samaresh Basu
- Phryne Fisher – created by Kerry Greenwood
- Garret and the Dead Man – created by Glen Cook
- Cordelia Gray – created by P. D. James
- Peter Gunn – created by Blake Edwards
- Mike Hammer – created by Mickey Spillane
- Madelyn "Maddie" Hayes in Moonlighting – created by Glenn Gordon Caron
- Sherlock Holmes – created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- Jack Irish – created by Peter Temple
- Jake Lassiter – created by Paul Levine
- Bernie Little – in the Chet and Bernie Mystery Series, created by Spencer Quinn
- L. Lawliet – created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
- Kinsey Millhone – created by Sue Grafton for her "alphabet mysteries" series of novels.
- Kiriti Roy - created by Indian dermatologist and a popular Bengali novelist Nihar Ranjan Gupta
- Thomas Magnum – created by Donald P. Bellisario for Magnum, P.I. TV series
- Parashor Barma - created by Premendra Mitra
- Joe Mannix – created by Richard Levinson and William Link for Mannix TV series
- Philip Marlowe – created by Raymond Chandler
- P. K. Basu created by Narayan Sanyal
- Tess Monaghan, created by Laura Lippman
- Adrian Monk – created by Andy Breckman for Monk TV series
- Hercule Poirot – created by Agatha Christie
- Jeff Randall – created by Dennis Spooner for Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) TV series
- Jim Rockford – created by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell for The Rockford Files TV series
- John Shaft – created by Ernest Tidyman
- Sam Spade – created by Dashiell Hammett
- Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster – created by Steve Franks for Psych TV series
- Spenser – created by Robert B. Parker
- Remington Steele – created by Robert Butler, Michael Gleason for Remington Steele TV series
- Jake Styles – created by Dean Hargrove and Joel Steiger for Jake and the Fatman TV series
- Philo Vance – created by S. S. Van Dine
- V. I. Warshawski – created by Sara Paretsky
- Nero Wolfe – created by Rex Stout
- Pepe Carvalho - created by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán
- Jimmy Kudo - (anime character) Case Closed created by Gosho Aoyama
- Inspector Roderick Alleyn – created by Ngaio Marsh
- 87th Precinct detectives – created by Ed McBain
- Superintendent Battle – created by Agatha Christie
- Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) – created by Arthur Upfield
- Harry Bosch – created by Michael Connelly
- Charlie Chan – created by Earl Derr Biggers
- Inspector Clouseau – from The Pink Panther franchise
- Columbo – from the American TV series Columbo, created by William Link and Richard Levinson
- Sergeant Cork – created by Ted Willis
- Inspector Adam Dalgleish – created by P. D. James
- Inspector French (Joseph French) – created by Freeman Wills Crofts
- Inspector Frost – created by R. D. Wingfield
- D.C.S. Christopher Foyle – from the British TV series Foyle's War, created by Anthony Horowitz
- Inspector Japp – created by Agatha Christie
- Richard Jury – created by mystery author Martha Grimes
- Lt. Theo Kojak - TV series (played by Telly Savalas)
- Inspector Lestrade – created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- Judge Bao – Chinese judge and investigator
- Steve McGarrett – Hawaii Five-O TV series
- Jules Maigret – created by Georges Simenon
- Adrian Monk – created by Andy Breckman and David Hoberman
- Inspector Morse - created by Colin Dexter
- Inspector Rebus – created by Ian Rankin
- Dave Robicheaux – created by James Lee Burke
- Dick Tracy - created by Chester Gould
- Inspector Wallander – created by Henning Mankell
- Chief Inspector Armand Gamache – created by Louise Penny
- Temperance Brennan – Bones TV series based on the books by Kathy Reichs
- Donald "Ducky" Mallard – N.C.I.S. TV series
- Dexter Morgan – Dexter TV series
- Dr. Lancelot Priestly – created by John Rhode
- Dr. R. Quincy – Quincy, M.E. TV series
- Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs– created by Jeffery Deaver 
- Elizabeth Rodgers – Law & Order TV series
- Dr. Kay Scarpetta – created by Patricia Cornwell
- Abby Sciuto – N.C.I.S. TV series
- Dr. John Thorndyke – created by R. Austin Freeman
- Bruce Wayne – Batman comics and adaptions
- Barry Allen – Flash comics and adaptions
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation TV shows
- Stella Bonasera – CSI: NY TV series
- Horatio Caine – CSI: Miami TV series
- Jo Danville – CSI: NY TV series
- Calleigh Duquesne – CSI: Miami TV series
- Gil Grissom – CSI: Crime Scene Investigation TV series
- Raymond Langston – CSI: Crime Scene Investigation TV series
- D. B. Russell – CSI: Crime Scene Investigation TV series
- Mac Taylor – CSI: NY TV series
- Catherine Willows – CSI: Crime Scene Investigation TV series
Anime and manga
- Hajime Kindaichi – Character from the manga and anime series Kindaichi Case Files.
- Shinichi Kudo/Conan Edogawa – The protagonist of Gosho Aoyama's series Case Closed, which is known in Japan as Meitantei Conan.
- L Lawliet – created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
- Alice – The protagonist of Kamisama no memochou, a NEET Detective.
- Sou Touma – The main character of the Q.E.D. series created and produced by Motohiro Katou.
- Crime fiction
- List of male detective characters
- List of female detective characters
- List of fictional historical detectives
- List of fictional detective teams
- List of fictional detectives for younger readers
- List of fictional science fiction and fantasy detectives
- List of detectives, constables, and agents in Sherlock Holmes
- Silverman,Kenneth (1991). Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-06-092331-8.
- Silverman 1991, p. 171
- "Definition of Sherlock in Oxford Dictionaries (British & World English)". oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- "Best fictional detectives". latimes. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- "Natalie Haynes's guide to TV detectives: #1 – Columbo". London: guardian.co.uk. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- "Clued In: The Top 10 Television Detectives". Time. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- "〈ｂｅランキング〉心に残る名探偵". 朝日新聞. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- "Kindaichi Case Files 2008 New Anime" (in Japanese). Tokyo MX. Retrieved 2010-02-07.
- "Case Closed FAQ". Funimation. Archived from the original on March 27, 2004. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
- Stop, You're Killing Me! (a list of fictional detectives found in novels)