20 Best Super Sleuth Names for Boys
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?
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on August 12th, 2013 at 11:28 pm
Gideon was not helped by its appearance in Harry Potter. Gideon Prewett was Molly Weasley’s brother, and he was mentioned maybe three times in the entire series. Only the complete and total Potter nerds like me even know that Molly Weasley had brothers. Could we please stop pulling the “Harry Potter cred” card for such obscure characters? Generally speaking, if you couldn’t explain the character’s plot line(s) to someone, the character probably isn’t major enough to mention. (I don’t mean to rant, but it irks me to see the HP card get pulled for characters who aren’t relevant to the story.)
That said, I do like Endeavor, Ezekiel, Gideon, and Hamish. I’m so torn on Ebenezer. I’ve never associated the name exclusively with Scrooge because Ebenezer is the “official” name of the area my grandmother’s family is from. It’s so dorky it’s almost cool, and I kinda love it, but I’d never saddle a kid with it…
on August 12th, 2013 at 11:30 pm
This list has two glaring omissions.
First, and most egregiously, Philip Marlowe. Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective is arguably the most famous of the genre, and certainly the most imitated. Philip is a great,strong name ripe for revival; I can see him replacing the somewhat dated Samuel and Daniel for parents seeking a distinguished yet affable classic. Marlowe is one of my top names for a boy. With a playwright and a detective as namesakes, Marlowe has a fabulous literary pedigree. Somewhere between Milo and Marley, I can see Marlowe gaining popularity — though for selfish reasons, I hope it doesn’t rise too far.
Second, Harry Dresden. While Jim Butcher’s novels about the wizard detective aren’t Chandler quality (or even Laurie R. King quality) they are blockbuster bestsellers. While Harry is popular in the UK, I can’t really see it coming back in the US — too many regional accents (including my own) pronounce it like “hairy”. Dresden, on the other hand, falls into the trendy place name category, and it’s one of the few that seems distinctly and exclusively masculine. Another strike in Dresden’s favor: names ending in -en are extremely popular (see Aiden and its variations). Though the city itself has tragic connotations, Harry Dresden is a fine (if flawed) role model. I think Dresden has serious potential.
on August 12th, 2013 at 11:41 pm
I was so busy writing up my additions that I totally forgot to comment on your list!
My favorite combination is Nero Wolfe. While Nero still has unfortunate connotations thanks to the infamous emperor, Wolfe is a striking combination of nature name and surname.
I really like Arkady, Aurelio, Duncan (and Bayard), Ellery (for boys only), Ezekiel (and Walter), Hamish, Horatio (fabulous!), Roderick, and Seeley. I *love* Gideon! Darwin is on my list, and so is Hieronymous for a middle name.
Oh, and here’re another detective you missed: Peter Whimsey. Peter, like Philip, is criminally underused.
on August 12th, 2013 at 11:44 pm
I love the name Ebenezer and it’s meaning! I realize it’s a bit too much for most, but I think the shortened version – Eben is very cool and easily usable! I also like Duncan from this list.
on August 12th, 2013 at 11:49 pm
Ebenezer is such a guilty pleasure name of mine! I can almost imagine using it. A lot of these names are fantastic but Ebenezer is definitely my favorite. Maybe, just maybe…though my mother in law would kill me!
on August 12th, 2013 at 11:54 pm
@Southern Maple Thank you, thank you, thank you! I consider myself a Harry Potter nerd, and I still didn’t remember Gideon Prewett. I felt stupid, but yes it is not Harry Potter name. I really, really, really feel the same way thank you! Even stranger was, Vernon was not mentioned yesterday as a Harry Potter character even though I would say Aunt Petunia’s husband was quite a notable secondary character. In every single book, seen quite a bit, etc.
I like Gideon which seems to be in air. I saw it in two books I read last year. I also like Darwin, Duncan, Endeavor (yes I like it), Lincoln, and Seeley. I really like this list. I don’t like Ebenezer, but adore the shortened Eben.I myself love and favor the classics, Sherlock, Hercule (Poirot) (Agatha Christie), etc. I am reading a series now where the male detective is named Russell nn Russ, and I really like that name. I don’t know any Russells personally, so it seems more unusual to me.
on August 13th, 2013 at 12:12 am
Nero is too much for me. It is in the same category as Lucifer…can’t get over the negative connotation.
on August 13th, 2013 at 12:15 am
Love Duncan and Ebenezer “Eben”. Darwin and Hieronymous are also fun. I’ve been reading Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot stories lately, that along with a few old Nancy Drew novels (father Carson Drew might make this list).
on August 13th, 2013 at 8:18 am
Endeavor is rather charming.
However, to be pedantic about spelling, both Morse’s first name and Captain Cook’s ship are spelled Endeavour, the British-English way!
on August 13th, 2013 at 10:24 am
John Luther! Or, as he is called in the show, just Luther.
on August 13th, 2013 at 10:47 am
I second the Endeavour spelling 😉
Also… Sherlock Holmes anyone? Most famous detective of all time? Pretty sure he should be on the list.
on August 13th, 2013 at 2:21 pm
Endeavor, Rawlins, Gideon, Nero, Scobie, Seeley, and Solar are just SO cool. I suppose the only ones I would consider on my own son are Gideon and Seeley, though. I love this post, but I agree that Sherlock Holmes should totally be on it!
on August 13th, 2013 at 4:56 pm
What about the Great Mouse Detective, Basil of Baker Street? I always thought that was a wonderfully sleuthy name.
on August 13th, 2013 at 8:14 pm
Of course it seems Sherlock Holmes should head the list, but the post is titled “20 Best Super Sleuth Names…”; and while Sherlock is awfully cool, it’s such a one-man name that I don’t see it as usable. (Although Hieronymous, Nero and Ebenezer made the list…hm.)
I do like a lot of these names. There’s a part of me that loves Ebenezer, and I like Arkady, Aurelio, Duncan, Endeavor/Endeavour (would be awesome in the middle!), Gideon, Hamish, Horatio, Philo, Lincoln, Roderick and Seeley. Huh. That’s most of them. I also love the combo Lancelot Priestley, though it’s way over the top. Yipe! I forgot Ezekiel. I like him too–and the nickname Easy is delightful. Much better than Zeke, IMO.
How about Nate the Great? 🙂
on August 13th, 2013 at 8:39 pm
Thank you, thank you, auroradawn! That is exactly why Sherlock wasn’t on the list!
on August 13th, 2013 at 9:14 pm
I think this list is super cool. I love Ebenezer, but would never use it. The rest of the names on the list, especially Arkady, Philo, Duncan, Horatio, Endeavor (how cool is Endeavor?), and Hamish are awesome.
And there are some terrific combos. I love Easy Rawlins. It sounds like he missed his calling as a blues musician.
Also, I watch Inspector Morse. How did I never know his name was Endeavour?
on August 14th, 2013 at 12:03 am
Lord Peter Wimsey, of course! And Nick Charles, of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. And I’m quite partial to Thomas Pitt these days, from Anne Perry’s series.
on August 14th, 2013 at 9:40 am
Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot is a personal favorite.
on August 14th, 2013 at 12:39 pm
I love these names from the list…
on August 14th, 2013 at 1:49 pm
Just as Lancelot shouldn’t shake off his Arthurian past, neither should Ebenezer his Scrooge! Ultimately Dickenson’s character was created to represent new-beginnings and salvation of soul. Of course, if not for its previous darkness, one couldn’t experience such a transformation! A little Ebby (Eh-bee) — as one of our own Nameberries have chosen to name her son recently– or Eben would be quite welcome in my book. The name is an Old Testament name meaning “Rock (or stone) of help,” which is very appropriate for anyone who has accepted the help and salvation of Jesus Christ and put their hope in Him -the Rock. 🙂 A name with these depths can reign generation to generation.
“Duncan is a charming Scottish royal name that’s been underused in this country” – probably because of the “overused” Dunkin’ Donuts chain. At least that’s what my husband says about this friendly little name that’s always been in my top 20! I have nothing against DD, but really?? It has really brought nothing but demise on this great name!
Roderick is cool; and Gideon is definitely a great brave/bold name-sake that hubby adores. It may end up in our top 20 middle name choices.
on August 14th, 2013 at 2:20 pm
I totally agree with Pansy when she said, “What about the Great Mouse Detective, Basil of Baker Street? I always thought that was a wonderfully sleuthy name.”
Also thought the same as auroradawn who commented on Ezekiel… “the nickname Easy is delightful. Much better than Zeke, IMO.”
on August 17th, 2013 at 11:40 am
Can I add a few classic Film Noir sleuth names? I feel like it was THE era for “Private Dicks” in trench-coats.
Sam Spade -> played by Humphrey Bogart is the main character in the 1st Film Noir film “Maltese Falcon”. It is this character that established the archetype of a film noir sleuth. Sam’s a little rough around the edges, but generally has a good heart, and a despite a fuzzy sense of right and wrong – his compass does usually steer him north. I think both Sam and Spade are names that would work really well with todays trends. B-T-W: his partner who dies right off the bat was Miles Archer. Both are just so on par with today’s trends.
Philip Marlowe -> depicted by Dick Powell in “Murder My Sweet”. He’s the good guy among the tough guys.
Mike Vargas -> In “Touch of Evil” played by Charleston Heston in another great one. Vargas could be really great for a sleuth fanatic looking for a bold and underused choice for a LO. Incidentally he is considered to be the last Film Noir sleuth as “Touch of Evil” is often considered to be the last “classic Film Noir film”.
There are of course many many more but I figured these three were a nice cross section.
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on January 17th, 2014 at 5:42 pm
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on July 31st, 2014 at 11:38 pm
Sorry if someone already mentioned this, but Hamish is also the middle name of John Watson, co-star in every Sherlock Holmes production ever.
on July 31st, 2014 at 11:38 pm
Sorry if someone already mentioned this, but Hamish is also the middle name of John Watson, co-star in every Sherlock Holmes production ever.
on December 10th, 2014 at 9:58 am
@auroradawn, Yes yes yes on Nate the Great. That is the best suggestion I have seen either on the nameberry list or the other comments!!!
Also this is probably too modern for many, but there is a YA series called Echo Falls by Peter Abrahams and the main character/sleuth is Ingrid Levin-Hill. It has caused me to be in love with the name Ingrid. My other favorite series is the Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley, and again, because of this series and character/sleuth, I love the name Flavia. I also met a young girl called Flavia on a trip to Germany a few years back. The character Flavia (acc to the audiobook reader) is pronounced with a long a (FLAY-vee-uh), while the girl I met was FLAH-vee-uh. I rather like it better the latter way, but I have warmed to the former too.
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