A staple of Mystery Fiction and Detective Fiction, the Great Detective relies on powers of deduction and educated thought to solve crimes. The Great Detective is usually an Amateur Sleuth or a Private Detective (because Police Are Useless).
The Great Detective tradition originates with Eugène François Vidocq, a Real Life criminal-turned-detective and founder of the French Sûreté. Vidocq pioneered many of the scientific methods of detective work which would later become common in fictional detective stories.
The first Great Detective in fiction was Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin. Poe rejected the Vidocq model in favor of a more fantastic kind of detective. Later, the Dupin model was further codified by Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, the most famous example to this day.
In Japan, this type of character is called "Meitantei", and the detective may combine the Kid Detective with the Great Detective.
Anime and Manga
- Shin'ichi Kudo/Conan Edogawa, of Detective Conan.
- Oddly enough, Loki, Norse trickster god, in Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok.
- Subverted in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, where Manjoume has declared himself Super Detective Manjoume Thunder on a few occasions. He's miserable at it, but it doesn't stop him.
- L in Death Note, who later reveals that he is the world's three greatest detectives, by use of pseudonyms. After his death, L is succeeded by Mello and Near (L-M-N, get it?), two younger proteges trained in the same school/institution that produced L.
- Practically everyone in Tantei Gakuen Q, but specially people like Kyuu Renjou, Ryu Amakusa, Professor Morihiko Dan and Professor Dan's niece Sakurako Yukihira.
- Chiko in The Daughter of Twenty Faces is this, although her powers of deduction aren't really used to help the law per se...
- Hajime Kindaichi from The Kindaichi Case Files.
- Detective Lunge in Monster seems heavily inspired by Holmes. Working on cases seems to be his entire life and he is shown repeatedly to be unable to stop, even using his forced vacation to continue the investigation.
- Meitantei Holmes, a Funny Animal adaptation of Sherlock Holmes (called Sherlock Hound in the US), created by (of all people) Hayao Miyazaki.
- Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple is, of all things, a recent (2004) anime teaming up Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple through the device of Marple's great-niece Mabel West. Aimed at older teens.
- Karakurizoushi Ayatsuri Sakon (aka Doll Puppeteer Sakon). Sakon is a student and a traditional bunraku performer (a style of traditional Japanese theatre employing very detailed life-sized puppets). In his spare time, though, he is an Amateur Sleuth. And his partner in his investigations is his red-haired, loud-mouthed puppet, Ukon.
- Fabre Sensei Wa Meitantei
- Steam Detectives, the story of Boy Detective Narutaki and his endless fight against the various mad scientists and masked villains that are trying to take over Steam City.
- Subverted by Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, which appears to be a typical Meitantei about a genius teenage-girl detective specialising in Paranormal Investigation ... but in reality, she's merely the slightly dense puppet of Neuro, a creepy-but-brilliant demon from Hell who "eats mysteries".
- In Rozen Maiden, there's a puppet Funny Animal one called Meitantei Kun Kun. Shinku is a fan.
- Akise Aru is the best non-diary holder after all.
- Gosick gives us Victorique the Elegant Gothic Lolita Great Detective. Her brother Grevil, meanwhile, is reputed to be this.
- In the manga/2nd anime of Fullmetal Alchemist, Solf J. Kimblee is the evil version of this. He may be a Psycho for Hire mass murderer, but he's also a brilliant detective.
- There's this guy. Yes, he is a top martial artist. Yes, he is a great chemist. But first, he's the world's greatest detective.
- There's also this ductile guy. He's just as good as the guy mentioned above, if not better, but is often overlooked because he's not a gritty, mean, tragic origin guy, nor has he had several movies and TV shows about him.
- And thirdly, there's this faceless guy. He's pretty much staight up ace detective and lacks the gadgets and powers of the two above. He's also been referred to as the world's second greatest detective.
- Gabriel Webb from The Maze Agency.
- Abraham Moth from the graphic novel The Woman in Red: Son of Sherlock Holmes.
- German example: Nick Knatterton.
- Simon Archard from Ruse.
- Sherlock Holmes, the Trope Codifier as far as modern audiences are concerned.
- Erast Fandorin, the popular fictional Russian detective created by Boris Akunin. He is actually teamed with Sherlock Holmes in one novella but neither is able to "prevail" over the other. See The Other Wiki for more information...
- Anyone in detective fiction from the time of Sherlock Holmes until the type was deconstructed in Trent's Last Case in 1913. Furthermore, in a genre-wide example of Fountain of Expies, such characters tended to be thinly veiled copies of Holmes.
- Harry Salt, the main character of Incompetence certainly qualifies. Granted, damn near everybody else in the book is completely useless at what they do, but he is able to piece together a reasonably accurate account of a murder despite the fact that the files contradict each other.
- Hercule Poirot.
- The Basil of Baker Street series by Eve Titus. The Film of the Book, The Great Mouse Detective, is by Disney.
- Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin is the Trope Maker.
- Peter Wickham, aka The Sleuth, in the Steampunk Superhero novel The Falling Machine by Andrew P. Mayer, is Sherlock Holmes crossed with Bruce Wayne without the bat symbolism.
- Nero Wolfe
Live Action TV
- Subverted in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney with the character Luke Atmey. As far as the player can tell, he devotes his life to his detective work, especially to cases involving a master thief named Mask☆DeMasque. By the end of the case, we find out that he's been the mastermind behind everything Mask☆DeMasque has ever done, blackmailing the thief into heists and then taking advantage of them to improve his image in the public eye. He goes so far as to murder someone, then allow himself to be accused of being the thief himself to avoid this information getting out.
- That's arguably a deconstruction, since Luke explicitly states twice he felt himself so great he needed to deliberately create an adversary that could match him. But of course, he maybe was just an Attention Whore.
- Considering that his name is "Look at me", and his theme is called "I just want love" (named after the pun in his Japanese name, Aiga Hoshiidake), he may be an Attention Whore.
- While it's not his official job title, due to the absurd amount of evidence he uncovers it can be argued that Phoenix himself fits the trope.
- There's a reason the Miles Edgeworth game is called Ace Attorney Investigations when he's technically a prosecutor; all he does is detective about. He even has a special power that's basically making logical deductions by connecting known facts.
- Professor Layton from the series of the same name - although the extent to how awesome he really is doesn't come into play until near the end of the first game.
- Erika Furudo from Umineko no Naku Koro ni.
- The entire cast of Guilty Party, though the most classically Great Detective-ish of them is their patriarch, The Commodore/Dorian Dickens.
- Speaking of Vidocq, there is a club aptly named The Vidocq Society. Made up of volunteers, they take on cold cases and many law enforcement agencies send them cases to review. Want to join? Well, you have to be an expert in some field of forensics to start off. Oh, and you have to be invited to join, pay $100 in member dues every year and attend at least one meeting yearly (meetings are every third Thursdays of the month, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).