National Reading Movement

Literature’s Greatest Detectives

Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot aren’t the only great detectives in literature! Here are four fascinating detectives who solve crimes in different ways and different circumstances.

Chief Inspector Chen Cao

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Inspector Chen of the Shanghai Police Department is the hero of Qiu Xiaolong’s numerous mystery novels. The novels are set in 1990s China, where communism still reigns but blatant capitalism is also tolerated, resulting in crimes of rich complexities. The honorable, poetry-reciting Inspector Chen seeks to solve these crimes justly, and at the same time, balance the interests of the Communist Party. 

“Justice was like coloured balls in a magician’s hand, changing colour and shape all the time beneath the light of politics.”

Inspector Chen first appears in Death of a Red Heroine, the first book of the Detective Chen series. Chen is tasked to investigate when a young, prominent Communist Party member is found dead. When he suspects that the crime was committed by the offspring of a high-ranking official, he finds himself instantly removed from the case. Despite that, he risks everything to get to the bottom of the crime and to see justice done. Check it out here.

 

Dr. Manabu Yukawa (also known as Detective Galileo)

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Dr. Manabu Yukawa is the crime solver in Keigo Higashino’s very popular Detective Galileo series. He is a genius physicist with a surprising passion for criminal detection, and is often approached by the Tokyo police to solve seemingly impossible cases.

The most popular novel in the Galileo series is The Devotion of Suspect X, a crime mystery that unusually already tells you who the murderer is at the start! Here’s a quick summary:

Ishigami, a mathematical genius, has fallen for a divorced mother-of-one who lives next door. When she commits a killing in self-defense, he vows to protect her and arranges a brilliant deception that completely fools the police. Of course, Detective Galileo is called in to solve this, but Ishigami is his most clever and determined opponent yet. A thrilling battle of wits ensues!

“Which is harder: devising an unsolvable problem, or solving that problem?” Find out here.

 

Mma Precious Ramotswe

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Meet Botswana’s finest detective, Precious Ramotswe — the go-to woman to investigate wayward daughters, philandering partners, curious conmen, and any problem in and out of the ordinary.

Ramotswe is different from the typical well-educated, intellectual detective. She became a detective with the simple intention of helping others, and solves her cases with shrewd empathy, clear-eyed pragmatism and a wisdom that comes from her life experience.

“They are my people, my brothers and sisters. It is my duty to help them to solve the mysteries of their lives. That is what I am called to do”.

To get to know Ramotswe, we recommend borrowing The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. It tells the story of Ramotswe setting up her own detective agency in Gaborone, and solving the first few cases she gets assigned. However, a sinister case crops up as a young boy goes missing, possibly at the hands of witch doctors — ‘doctors’ who engage in a frightening African practice of using human bones in the making of medicine. Borrow the book to find out what happens!

 

Dirk Gently

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One of our favourite books by Douglas Adams is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency which is a humorous detective novel starring the one and only Dirk Gently. Dirk is a pudgy man and a self-proclaimed “holistic detective”, who makes use of “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things” to solve crimes. Does that sound ridiculous? Well, we can’t say he’s a fraud because none of his clients have ever paid him.

In the book, there are several seemingly unrelated plot strands, including an “Electric Monk” looking for a door, a horse in a bathroom, the murder of a wealthy businessman, the landing of an alien spacecraft and a dead cat. The only person who can make sense of it all is Dirk Gently, who will use his holistic detective skills to hilariously guide you toward a conclusion. Read it for yourself!

“Don’t you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don’t expect to see.”