Top Five Detectives

Top Five is a show where the hosts categorize, rank, compare, and stratify everything… from cars to gadgets to people and movies. From stuff that is hot, and things that are not nearly as interesting – it’s Top Five.

They follow the clues, they figure out the crime, and sometimes they wait until the last minute to ask that all important question, “Excuse me, sir, but why did you kill your wife?” They are our top five detectives.

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About Author

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...


  1. OK…here are my Top 5 detectives and the reasons why…

    #5. Encyclopedia Brown: Also-Ran for the hosts, Encyclopedia was the first detective I remember in print. The thing that I found amazing was the fact that the reader was given a chance to solve the case right along with Encyclopedia. If you really read the story and new a little bit about the world around you, you could flip to the back of the book and read the conclusion to find out if you were right. I learned so much from these stories. Only occasionally did I feel cheated by the ending. I remember one story about some people witnessing a crime at a military fort and theclue was the criminal talked about seeing an American flag on the pole in the rain and that was the clue he was lying, because military rules said take the flag down during rain storms.

    #4 Sean Spencer: A TV detective from the USA show Psych. This series was great. Sean starts his career by watching the evening news. He uses his amazing observational skills to solve a crime, but the lead detective doesn’t believe Sean saw what others missed and accuses him of being involved in the crime he is claiming to have solved. To get out of it Sean instead convinces the police he is a psychic. The show is a comedy and rarely gets serious but has great character development throughout. My favorite bit comes late in the series while The Mentalist (also an ABC owned show I believe) is enjoying its peak popularity, The Mentalist has the same premise as Psych but is played more seriously. Anyway, Sean is in Canada working with a new group of police and someone asks him if he is a real psychic and he makes a joke about how ridiculous it would be for someone to fake being a psychic as a career and name checks the other show. It caught me off guard and I was laughing for the next twenty minutes. Its probably not that funny in reality…but it got me.

    #3 I had a hard time deciding where Penny and Brain would fall for me. I considered tossing them out because Encyclopedia Brown pretty well covers the “kid detective” beat. But the shear enjoyment I remember feeling while watching this girl and dog best all the adults around them was to powerful to ignore. I’m convinced to this day that the chief knew what was going on and the real reason he ignored Gadget’s shinanigans was to keep Dr. Claw from realizing Penny was the brains of the operation and targeting her. I kind of want a” 20 years later” series where that story is explored.

    #2 Adrian Monk: Another TV detective from USA Network. The show Monk can at just the right time for me. I’m not sure what was going on at the time in my life, I was either about to graduate high school or getting started in college…but I was stressed, and Monk had just the right amount of comedy and drama to distract me. I was a little bothered by the way they used Monk’s conditions for laughs, but he was a tried and true detective, and made his faults work for him. The ending was a bit of a let down, but the whole series was strong. There weren’t any shark jumps that I recall.

    #1 Sherlock Holmes: I’m not sure what I can add about the world’s most famous detective. Not the first, but clearly the best. I own a leather bound gold leaf 2nd edition complete collection in one tome that I hope my kids will enjoy as much as I did one day. Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing is getting a little dated, but I can’t deny how fun these stories are. One of the few books I’ve read multiple times.

  2. 5) Encyclopedia Brown
    4) Chief Inspector Clouseau (Pink Panther – Peter Sellers)
    3) Rick Deckard (Blade Runner)
    2) Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars)
    1) Harry Dresden (Dresden Files)

    Honorable Mentions: C. Auguste Dupin (Edgar Allen Poe’s father of all detective stories)
    Walter “Rorshach” Kovak (Gumshoe archetype in super hero land)
    Rider Sandman (Bernard Cromwell’s “Gallow’s Thief”)

  3. Peter Kuebeck on

    As for the best time period for detective stories, I’d have to go for the 1930s-1950s. The entire ethos, of “guns, booze, broads, and big American cars” just oozes atmosphere.

    My top 5:

    5) Rorshach – the father of “grim & gritty” comic detectives.
    4) Hellboy – probably the best supernatural detective in the business.
    3) Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jone, Jr. – an archaeological detective, but a detective nonetheless.
    2) Brother Cadfael – a 12th century British monk and solver of murders, celebrated in a series of novels and a great PBS series.
    1) Mike Hammer – Micker Spillane’s two-fisted detective hero proved to be the controversial archetype for many that followed him, and was the inspiration for Frank Miller’s ‘Sin City’ series.

  4. Malone_hasco on

    I was kinda hoping for at least honorable mention to coolest detective pair of the 80’s. Crockett & Tubbs from Miami Vice.

  5. My top 5

    5: Raylan Givens: I love justified, it’s my number 1 show currently on. Raylan is awesome and makes the show.

    4: Adrian Monk: Monk was one of my favorite shows while growing up. I like how it used comedy and combined it with mystery. Tony Shalube really sells the OCD detective.

    3: Samuel Vimes: Discworld was one of favorite book series when growing up. The books about the city watch are the best. Samuel Vimes is the leader of it and his role in the city of Anka-Mopork is to keep the peace. It’s not easy when the Thieves and Assassins Guilds are considered legal and the fact that the world is as crazy as it is. Good book series and one of favorite characters.

    Fun Fact: Shooting just started on a TV show based on the city watch.

    2: Pheonix Wright: In a world much like our own, the only way to prove yourself inocent of a crime is prove that someone else did in only 3 days. In this world there is only one Lawyer you want. Pheonix Wright is a series of games for the Nintendo DS and IOS. You play a lawyer who is hired by a client and your job is to prove their innocences. The main reason why he is on the list is that you spend a large part of each game investigating crime scenes, looking for evidence, and talking to people. Plus the games are pretty funny.

    1: Harry Dresden: My favorite. The books are awesome. Dresden is awesome. Dresden Files is like a wierd cross between Spider-Man and the Rockford Files with magic. Best thing about it is the books get better as the series goes on. Can’t wait for the next book.

    As far as top 5s go, I would like to see “Top 5 Historacal Figures you would have team up to fight crime” would be fun. Lots of comic seem to do that now days such as Atomic Robo and Manhaten Projects. Would be fun to listen to.

  6. Dan Langsdale on

    I like plenty detectives, so I’ll make my list from ones I haven’t seen/heard listed yet:

    5) Tim Drake – the kid who figured out who Batman was & used it to blackmail his way into becoming Robin.

    4) Black Jack Justice (& Trixie Dixon) – stars of the the podcast radio show from Decoder Ring Theatre, I like the balance of old fashioned noir tropes with modern wit and sensibilities.

    3) Hercule Poirot – Agatha Christie’s first and most prolific detective, he starts his consulting detective career as a WWI refugee in Britain after retiring as a Belgian police detective, and keeps plugging away for 50 more years. TV’s Adrian Monk is arguably a modern take on Poirot, in much the same way that House was Sherlock Holmes.

    2) Sasspants – the title detective of Guinea PIG, Pet Shop Private Eye only wants to read her books in peace, but the energetic Hamisher the Hamster pulls her into the intrigue of a store where the owner doesn’t know the difference between hamsters & koalas.

    1) Jupiter Jones – First Investigator of the Three Investigators of Rocky Beach California. He lives in a junkyard but his wits have him & his pals getting chauffeured around in a gold-plated limousine. Despite his youth, the chief of police personally vouches for his abilities a detective. Secret Hideout. Former Child Actor. Always innovating and thinking on his feet. And somehow still a bit tubby despite all the riding around on bicycles that the Investigators seem to do. Oh yeah, and did I mention he does a killer Alfred Hitchcock imitation?

  7. My list of detectives:

    5. Cadfael – a mixture of piety and skepticism, kindness and justice. Herbalism in the place of forensics. Really enjoyable.

    4. Clousseau – Peter Sellers at his Peter Sellersest.

    3. Sherlock Holmes – Jeremy Brent, Basil Rathbone and Cumberbatch were wonderful in the role, but Holmes lives on the page. Conan Doyle’s writing holds up so well especially compared to some of his contemporaries.

    2. Arthur Dietrich – my favorite of Barney Miller’s Squad Room Detectives at the 12th precinct although any of them could’ve made the list.

    1. My dad – My dad was a detective for the Chicago police for about 25 years. He caught serial killers and rapists and other violent criminals and he did it the right way. Never had allegations of violence or torture. Instead he just bought hamburgers and convinced them to tell their side of the story.

  8. Really Enjoyed the podcast — got a great laugh out of you guys! :)

    Top Five for me this week :

    5- Captain Jean-Luc Picard — Solving crimes on the holodeck or in space as an explorer = He rocks and does an amazing job! Just look at how he handles Q and you will see a great deductive mind at work.

    4- Sherlock – TV BBC (Current) – Obvious reasons on this one – – he’s a great detective and while he is an insufferable ass at times — he’s amazing and does care about his friends and doing ‘good’.

    3- Cormoran Strike. The series JK Rowling is writing under Robert Galbraith staring this detective is amazing. It’s a great homage to classic Noir works and I really enjoy him over all – – he’s gruff but sensitive, he’s a vet and he’s an ass but he does simply amazing work. He’s smart and isn’t afraid to ask for help when he needs it.

    2- Keith & Veronica Mars – Mars Investigations (Veronica Mars TV Show) – Be it the classic “Who Done it” or the weekly mystery that feeds into the overarching story line – these two are an amazing father/daughter crime solving duo! They complement and contrast perfectly. Rob Thomas did a great job writing the two and the Kristen Bell & Enrico Colantoni have great chemistry bringing the two characters to life.

    1-Comtesse Phèdre nó Delaunay de Montrève — The heroine of Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel” Trilogy (The first three books anyway) is while yes — a courtesan – also trained as a spy and uses those skills to uncover plots against her Queen and kingdom. She has humble beginnings and earns her title through the death of her Patron – which she has to prove wasn’t by fault of her own! Yes — this is sort of a stretch as she’s not the typical ‘Detective’ – however she is an amazing bad ass of her own right – – she saves her kingdom and takes on the will of Gods to protect those she loves. She’s pretty awesome. It is a ‘chick lit’ book — however I suggest it because Carey has a way of making the world and situations so rich that you are sucked into it. Phedre is one of my favorite characters in lit in general and I have hooked several other friends and coworkers on this series. I still relisten/reread the books because I enjoy them so much — even though I know them by heart now.

    Some also-rands

    The Doctor – – from Doctor Who.

    FBI Profiler Maggie O’Dell by Alex Kava

    and Harry Bosch. :)

    There ya go!

  9. Jurisprudence on

    I like detective stories. Love me some Noir and love me some cheesy detectives. Here are my top 5:

    5. Harry Dresden- Jim Butcher’s the Dresden Files introduces us to a private investigator that slings magic and masochistic levels of causing himself pain and suffering.

    4. Detective Dee- I lived in China. They love this guy there and I like him too. He has a crazy mace and he knows how to use it.

    3. Shawn Spenser -Because hilarious fake psychics are hilarious.

    2. Detective Chen Cao – Qui Xiaolong is a Chinese political refugee with a Phd in comparative literature. He writes a series of books about Detective Chen Cao. As a pure detective series they are not the greatest, however, I have never seen anything on paper that can convey what the Chinese are like or their culture better than this series. If you are interested in China this is a must read series.

    1. Dr. Siri Paiboun- Colin Cotterill writes a mystery series for Soho Press about a 73 year old medical examiner in communist Laos during the 70’s after the Pathet Lao took over from the Royals. He is a doctor that gets shoehorned into the role of medical examiner with no training and no resources. Oh yea, he also houses the spirit of a 1000 year Shaman from one of the ethnic minorities in Laos. It is a really interesting series that gives some insight into the history and culture of a place very few people know exist.

  10. Shoutout to whoever shouted out Olivia Benson at the end of the episode. I think it was Zach?

    Surprised no one has said Basil from The Great Mouse Detective. A wonderful, underrated Disney movie.

    I also just remembered Shelby Woo from the Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, a show that aired on Nickelodeon briefly in the mid-90s. I can’t find the episode now, but I remember one about a food poisoning at school as a result of spoiled hotdogs. I stopped eating hotdogs for many years after I watched that.

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