By Linda Rosenkrantz
A few months ago, we blogged about lady detectives, clueing you in to some fabulous names like Trixie, Temperance and Thursday, Loveday and Precious. Now it’s time to investigate their male counterparts—and there are some real doozies—drawn from a variety of genres– from early crime novels to comic strips to contemporary TV.
Arkady Renko— a chief homicide inspector for the prosecutor’s office in Moscow, Arkady Renko is the protagonist of a series by Martin Cruz Smith, beginning with the bestselling Gorky Park. Arkady, a lively three-syllable Russian saint’s name used by Turgenev and Dostoyevsky, is certainly prime import material.
Aurelio Zen (great combo) is a fictional Italian detective created by the British crime writer Michael Dibdin; Zen, a trio of spellbinding cases based on the bestselling novels aired on PBS’s Masterpiece in 2011. Aurelio is an exotic and energetic Italian version of the sunny Aurelius.
Darwin Jones is, not surprisingly, a “science detective,”—a comic book character, the Chief of Scientific Investigation for the US Government, ‘called on to solve the unsolveable…to explain the inexplicable…and to understand the things that few men on this Earth have understood. This scientific namesake name has been on the pop list since 2001 and we see it moving higher.
Duncan McClaine—Captain McClaine, created by Bayard Kendrick, is a dashing detective character, who, though blinded in World War I sets up a detective agency in New York. Duncan is a charming Scottish royal name that’s been underused in this country
Ebenezer Gryce—of the NY Metropolitan Police Force, was invented by Anna Katharine Green, one of the first writers of detective fiction in America, called “the mother of the detective novel.” The question with Ebenezer is always can he ever be de-Scrooged?
Ellery Queen—the name of both the detective and the pen name of the two writers who created him—a pair of cousins from Brooklyn. Queen himself is presented as a mystery writer and amateur detective. In the past few years, Ellery has started to be used for girls as well as boys.
Endeavor Morse—the charismatically grouchy Oxford-based TV detective created by Colin Dexter is another of the “gentleman detectives.” His name was the result of his father’s obsession with Captain Cook and his ship, the Endeavor. Plausible name or trying too hard?
Ezekiel ‘Easy’ Rawlins, a P.I. created by Walter Mosley, is a black hard-boiled detective and World War II veteran living in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was played by Denzel Washington in the 1995 film Devil in a Blue Dress. Ezekiel is an Old Testament names rapidly rising in popularity—he’s now at Number 198.
Gideon Fell, a corpulent lexographer and Oxford professor character created by John Dickson Carr and the protagonist of 23 novels, is an amateur sleuth able to solve “impossible crimes.” Gideon is another Old Testament new favorite, helped by appearances in Harry Potter, Scott Pilgrim and Gideon’s Crossing.
Hamish Macbeth, created by M.C Beaton for a series of mystery novels that became a BBC Scotland series. It featured a red-haired local police officer in a fictitious town on the west coast of Scotland. Could a name be more appealingly Scottish?
Hieronymous Bosch—aka “Harry” Bosch, created by Michael Connelly in the 1992 novel The Black Echo, and continuing through a number of police procedurals, is a veteran homicide detective with the LAPD, named after the 15th century Dutch artist, Hieronymus Bosch.
Horatio Caine is the no-nonsense detective on CSI: Miami, sharp analyzer of evidence and bodies and crime scenes, played by David Caruso. With its Shakespearean cred and appealing o-ending, Horatio is ripe for rediscovery.
Lancelot Priestley—an early physician-detective created by John Rhode, Dr. Lancelot Priestley was the leading forensic investigator in the Britain of his time. It’s hard to separate Lancelot from his chivalrous Arthurian history—but that might be a good thing
Lincoln Rhyme—one of the most interesting and complex of contemporary detectives, Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme is a brilliant black tetraplegic forensic scientist who was introduced in The Bone Collector. Lincoln is now and forever one of the most distinguished of the presidential appellations.
Nero Wolfe – a New York City brownstone-dwelling “armchair detective” created in 1934 by Rex Stout and featured in 39 novels, as well as on radio, television and film. If you can forget the Roman emperor who fiddled while Rome burned, Nero would make a lively o-ending choice.
Philo Vance—a stylish, intellectual, bon vivant who featured in twelve crime novels by S. S. Van Dine beginning in 1926 and was also popular in movies and on radio. Philo is a dynamic and distinctive Greek name that is primed to join cousin Milo.
Roderick Alleyn is the Oxford-educated “gentleman detective” policeman hero of 32 novels by Ngaio Marsh, many of which were adapted for BBC television. Roderick is an elegant, if slightly stuffy, old English name, that could see more use–depending on how you feel about nicknames Rod and Roddy.
Scobie Malone is a Sydney homicide detective created by Australian novelist Jon Cleary. He was named for the famed jockey Arthur “Scobie” Breasley, who got that nickname from Australian horse trainer John Scobie. This one is probably best left as a nickname.
Solar Pons—When young American writer August Derleth heard that there would be no more Sherlock Holmes stories, he wrote to Conan Doyle for permission to continue the series. When his request was denied, he set about creating his own detective that was syllabolically similar to Holmes. Solar is a unique sun-related word name that could be added to a list of sunny names.
Are there any other sleuth names that would make your Top 20?