Wednesday, July 10, 2013

And the Winner is…

by Tracy Kiely

Much has been said over the years regarding the pick for the greatest detective. The list is not surprising, but I think, at the risk of offending, I must disagree with some of my fellow bloggers picks.
Oh, who am I kidding? This list is guaranteed to anger.

Sherlock Holmes.
Okay, can I just say it? Annoying at times. Really annoying at times.  Even Sir Arthur Doyle found him annoying. He chucked him off a cliff and only brought him back to life when an irate public demanded it. His skills as a detective – especially in the early books – boarder on the supernatural. He knows and sees things that no real human can. To call him one of the greatest detectives is like calling Spiderman one of the greatest humans. When I first read A Study In Scarlet I found it maddening. I completely agree with this review by Alex Baker who said:
“By later standards of detective fiction, ‘A Study in Scarlet’ violates a cardinal rule: there is no way for intelligent readers to work out the solution for the mystery by themselves. The very first time that the reader hears of Jefferson Hope is when Holmes arrests him as the murderer. Nor is any previous hint given of Drebber and Stangerson’s Mormon background. However, at the time when it was written, this rule did not yet exist, and detective fiction in general was taking its very first steps (to which this book greatly contributed)
I would shake Mr. Baker’s hand in hearty agreement, but I don't know where he lives.
 I didn’t warm up to Sherlock until I read The Hound of the Baskervilles. But even then I tended to give him a pass. I am becoming more of a fan lately, but that’s really more due to Benedict
Cumberbatch than anything else.

Hercule Poirot. Brilliant, yes. More accessible than Sherlock, but again, he can annoy. Even Dame Agatha wanted to kill him off. He sees things but does not share
them. He obsesses over his mustache. He fusses. He peppers his
chats with French phrases that I never can translate. It leaves me
feeling like I did when I was three and watching The Electric 
Company. Not being able to read yet, I’d go nuts at the closing tease
of “Tune in Next Week When…” and a sentence would appear on
the screen. I’d scream frantically for my mom to come and read it to me.  Come to think of it, I did the same thing when I’d hit those French phrases in the Poirot books.

Miss Marple. She is my personal favorite of all of Dame Agatha’s creations. But even she could dither at the worst times – like when explaining why she’d just figured out there was An
Important Clue. And one can only believe so many solutions that begin with, “I was reminded of the butcher’s daughter who met that terrible man.”

Spenser. Great tough Boston guy. Great detective. Had a kick-ass friend named Hawk. But at times Spenser would suddenly veer off and analyze his girlfriend, Susan’s, diet coke habits rather than the case at hand. Therefore we learned that she drinks it warm and she marinates broccoli in it.
???? (Did anyone else catch that? You could always tell when Robert Parker and his wife were at odds.)

Now, for my personal choice for best detective. It’s one that you normally don’t see, and I think that’s a shame. She’s an overlooked character who deserves better. She constantly solves the crime – many times overcoming a crippling handicap and the rather pathetic assistance of her friends who were usually dealing with drug-induced munchies or fretting over their hair. Yes, my dear readers, I am speaking of Velma.

            This poor woman has solved so many crimes and yet she is constantly overlooked as a plump “meddling kid.” She is nothing of the sort. She is tough. When she’s not surviving Fred’s atrocious driving (how many times did that man either crash the van or forget to fill it with gas?), or groping blindly for her lost glasses, she’s dealing with a far-out hippie and his crazed dog. Toss in a vain bubblehead and a forefather of the metro-sexual movement, and you can see why the odds are stacked against her. Almost all of the other detectives noted had a halfway intelligent assistant to help him. Velma did not. Let’s give her her due, shall we?

1 comment:

Vicki Delany said...

That Holmes is annoying is surely irrelevant. It is, in fact, the point. He's annoying to be around, but he's the one you want when you're in trouble.