The Most Famous Detective in Literature, Ranked

Choose the detective you think is the most famous!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Jun 17, 2024 07:41
When attempting to decide which sleuth stands out among the iconic detectives created in literary history, varied opinions often cloud a clear verdict. Each detective character brings a unique blend of intellect, deductive prowess, and personality. Creating a rank list where enthusiasts can cast their votes helps to highlight which characters resonate most with readers across different cultures and ages. By participating in this ranking, every enthusiast contributes to a democratic selection process that marks out the most admired literary detectives. The evolving list reflects changing tastes and new insights as more fans contribute their viewpoints. This ongoing input ensures that the list stays current and representative of a broad spectrum of perspectives.

Who Is the Most Famous Detective in Literature?

  1. 3

    Hercule Poirot

    A Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie. Poirot is one of Christie's most famous and long-lived characters, appearing in 33 novels and over 50 short stories.
    • First appearance: 1920 in The Mysterious Affair at Styles
    • Notable characteristic: His 'little grey cells'
  2. 4

    Miss Marple

    An elderly spinster who acts as an amateur consulting detective, created by Agatha Christie. Characterized by her shrewd intelligence and unexpected sharpness.
    • First appearance: 1927 in The Murder at the Vicarage
    • Trademark: Knitting
  3. 5

    Sam Spade

    A fictional private detective and the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett's 1930 novel, The Maltese Falcon. Spade is a hard-boiled detective with a keen sense of practicality and justice.
    • First appearance: 1930 in The Maltese Falcon
    • Creator: Dashiell Hammett
  4. 6

    Philip Marlowe

    A fictional character created by Raymond Chandler. Marlowe first appeared under that name in The Big Sleep, published in 1939.
    • First appearance: 1939 in The Big Sleep
    • Characteristic: Cynical private detective
  5. 7

    Father Brown

    A fictional Roman Catholic priest and amateur detective, created by English novelist G. K. Chesterton. Father Brown is featured in 53 short stories where his intuition and understanding of human nature solve the crimes.
    • First appearance: 1910 in The Innocence of Father Brown
    • Creator: G. K. Chesterton
  6. 8

    Ellery Queen

    A fictional detective and mystery writer, created by Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee, a cousin writing duo. Queen is both a fictional character and a pseudonym used by the authors.
    • First appearance: 1929 in The Roman Hat Mystery
    • Notable for: Being both a detective and a mystery writer
  7. 9

    C. Auguste Dupin

    A fictional 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.
    • First appearance: 1841 in The Murders in the Rue Morgue
    • Creator: Edgar Allan Poe
  8. 10

    Jane Marple

    An elderly spinster who acts as an amateur consulting detective, created by Agatha Christie. Characterized by her shrewd intelligence and unexpected sharpness.
    • First appearance: 1927 in The Murder at the Vicarage
    • Trademark: Knitting

Missing your favorite detective?

Error: Failed to render graph
No discussion started, be the first!

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most famous detective in literature. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or Detective is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 213 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each Detective once every 24 hours. The rank of each Detective is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

Additional Information

More about the Most Famous Detective in Literature

Sherlock Holmes
Rank #1 for the most famous detective in literature: Sherlock Holmes (Source)
Detective stories have fascinated readers for centuries. These tales bring suspense, mystery, and a quest for truth. At the heart of these stories lies the detective, a character who embodies intelligence, wit, and a keen sense of observation.

The detective often works outside the formal bounds of law enforcement. This allows them to approach problems with fresh eyes. They see what others miss. They notice the small details that lead to big revelations. Their minds work like puzzles, fitting pieces together until the picture becomes clear.

Many detectives have unique traits or quirks. Some may have a sharp sense of humor, while others might be more serious and brooding. Their personalities add depth to their characters, making them memorable. They often have a sidekick or a partner. This companion provides a contrast to the detective’s brilliance and helps to highlight their strengths.

The settings in detective stories vary widely. Some take place in bustling cities, filled with dark alleys and hidden secrets. Others unfold in quiet villages, where everyone knows each other. The setting often plays a crucial role in the story, adding to the atmosphere and tension.

The plot usually revolves around a crime, often a murder. The detective must gather clues, interview witnesses, and piece together the evidence. Red herrings and false leads abound, making the journey to the truth complex and engaging. The best stories keep readers guessing until the very end.

Detective stories often explore themes of justice and morality. The detective seeks to restore order in a world thrown into chaos by crime. They stand as a beacon of truth in a world filled with lies and deception. Their quest is not just to solve the crime but to bring about a sense of closure and peace.

The appeal of these stories lies in their ability to challenge the reader’s mind. They invite readers to play along, to try to solve the mystery before the detective does. This interactive element makes the stories engaging and fun.

Detective stories have evolved over time. Early tales were often more straightforward, focusing on the puzzle aspect. Modern stories may delve deeper into the detective’s personal life, exploring their motivations and struggles. This evolution has kept the genre fresh and relevant.

The detective character has become a cultural icon. They appear in books, films, and television shows. Their influence extends beyond the page, shaping how people think about crime and justice. They inspire real-life detectives and crime enthusiasts alike.

In conclusion, the detective in literature represents the triumph of intellect and justice. Their stories captivate and challenge readers, offering a blend of suspense, mystery, and moral reflection. The enduring popularity of these tales speaks to the universal appeal of the quest for truth.

Share this article