Adrian McKinty’s top 5 flawed detectives in literature

29 October 2015

Adrian McKinty’s top 5 flawed detectives, to rival his own drinking, smoking, cocaine-taking, speed-limit-breaking Sean Duffy.

Of course, one man’s flaw is another man’s gift, and the more flawed the detective the more interesting they are as a character. Make a detective too flawed and they become an anti-hero, which may or may not turn your readers off. Rachel in the recent best seller The Girl On The Train is a very flawed detective indeed who gets drunk every day and has black-outs – but she’s dogged enough to solve the case and I for one liked her a lot.

Here are my top 5 flawed detectives in literature.

5. Sherlock Holmes: chilly, aloof, rude, asexual, snobbish and racist, the Sherlock Holmes of the Conan Doyle stories has a lot of issues. But we like him because he gets the job done and his intelligence and powers of observation are always surprisingly effective.

4. Miss Marple: is Miss Marple flawed? She’s just a harmless little old lady who sits quietly in the corner and takes everything in. Everyone ignores the frail old dear but this is actually her greatest asset, because she’s got the best mind in the room. No one can outthink or outgeneral Miss Marple – many have tried and all have failed.

3. Christopher Boone is on the Asperger spectrum. He doesn’t really understand human emotions that well and he has trouble with closed in spaces and open spaces. Less promising material for a detective there couldn’t possibly be, but he solves the case in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time with resilience, determination and aplomb.

2. Bob Arctor is really a drugged out undercover cop called Agent Fred who has been assigned the task of spying on the notorious drug dealer Bob Arctor. This is the premise of Philip K Dick’s classic: A Scanner Darkly. Arctor/Fred loses his sanity and his identity as he not only tries to solve the case but tries to figure out who he actually is.

1. It’s hard to top Philip K Dick’s weirdness but Charles Willeford somehow manages to do it with his very flawed detective Hoke Moseley of the Miami Police Department. In a series of novels Moseley contrives to offend his colleagues, lose his false teeth, alienate his family, never clean his apartment, crash his car, annoy just about everything but still solve his cases in a hilarious dead-pan manner. My favourite flawed detective of them all.

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