Inspector Lestrade

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Once again, the trained, professional police officer can't compete with a high school student.


"Aaah! It's that confused detective!"

A character who is long on observational acuity and a bit short on connecting the dots. Named after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character Inspector Lestrade, who would always attempt to solve the case before Sherlock Holmes could, and always failed miserably. Where an Amateur Sleuth is involved, this character is nearly always a police officer, because the Police Are Useless.

A good Lestrade, especially a self-aware one, can still be a valuable resource to their great detective, doing much of the legwork and research, as well as being a companion who has the legal authority to make arrests. Lestrade himself often acted like this in the later Holmes stories. A Lestrade might also be capable of dealing with most standard crimes, and only calls in the protagonist when he's confronted with something especially unusual that would be a better use of the protagonist's talents. An unhelpful one may become an Obstructive Bureaucrat, and one with a chip on his shoulder about the Sleuth being better able to do his job than he is. Particularly in earlier Holmes stories, Lestrade himself also had a bit of this in his character, though he got better with time: compare his portrayals in A Study in Scarlet and Hound Of The Baskervilles.

A common act of Genre Blindness faced by the Lestrade is for them to over-confidently and prematurely declare that the case is open-and-shut; obviously the dead person committed suicide, or the obvious culprit was the one who did it. Of course, whilst they're busy putting their feet up or throwing the book at an innocent person, the Sleuth is almost instantly discovering the clues that prove that the Lestrade is way, way off base.

Compare Cop Boyfriend, Friend on the Force. Not to be confused with Inspector Javert or Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist. See also The Commissioner Gordon, if superheroes are involved.

Examples of Inspector Lestrade include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Sherlock Hound features Inspector Lestrade as an anthropomorphic dog, more exactly a huge mastiff. A Shout-Out to Lestrade's physical description in "Hound of the Baskervilles", as a small, but strong-looking man who looked like a mastiff.
  • Most of the police officers in Detective Conan are this, but specially Megure. They're portrayed as competent at their job (a few stories start near the end of a successful investigation on their part, for example) - but Shin'ichi is just that much better than them, and Megure especially has the good sense to defer to him.
    • Kogoro Mouri exemplifies this, although he's no longer with the force.
  • Inspector Nakata from the Witchblade anime series. Can be excused due to the abnormality of the cases he faces, but all he can boast in-series is that he's a generally decent guy, not too shy to challenge big corporations, and can put up a bold front when things look ugly. However, he reaches the end of the trail only when put on it with a red herring and ultimately allows himself to be used as a blunt tool for office backstabbing. Not really a bad hound, but has neither the scent nor tenacity of Yusuke Tozawa, whom he calls "hyena".
  • Most of the cast of Death Note are this to L and friends, especially Aizawa in the final arc, who figures out that Light is most likely Kira, but can't find any good evidence against him.
  • Inspector Kenmochi in The Kindaichi Case Files is a rare example of a Lestrade who is actually genre savvy. After resisting Kindaichi in the series' first mystery, he is immediately won over and begins calling Kindaichi in to help him solve murders. He is quite aware that Kindaichi is going to solve everything while he just does the legwork, and he doesn't mind. Keep in mind that Kenmochi is a decorated police inspector, while Kindaichi is sixteen years old.
    • Kengo Akechi comes off as this as well, especially during his debut story arc. Arrogant and snobbish, he is an elite-level officer who often tries to compete with Kindaichi over murder cases. Despite their rivalry, however, there is a grudging mutual respect.
  • If Grevil de Blois wasn't one of these, he'd be a Noble Idiot With No Day Job. Luckily for him, Victorique is ready to play Holmes to his Lestrade...and the de Blois family is influential enough to make firing him awkward.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Some incarnations of Jim Gordon are this to Batman, particularly stories centered around Batman's early years.
  • Recently, Batman's gained another: Edward Nigma, AKA the Riddler, who has (probably) reformed and is trying to use his fame as a villain to leverage a career as a detective. It hasn't gone well yet. At least one storyline has involved Batman and Nigma playing off each other, picking up tips.
  • Ashley Swift in The Maze Agency. She is actually a skilled detective, but not quite as good as Jennifer and Gabe, and tends to let her rivalry with Jennifer get the best of her.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, there were actually two such detectives (who were rivals between themselves): Tobias Gregson and the Trope Namer, G. Lestrade. It should be noted that Gregson didn't have many significant appearances again afterward, whereas Lestrade gets some bits of Character Development and often aids Holmes and Watson. Ironically, Holmes considers Gregson to be the smarter of the two.
    • Also: Inspector Athelney Jones, in The Sign of Four, and Inspector Stanley Hopkins, in several short stories.
    • And a subversion: Inspector Baynes in Wisteria Lodge is the one official police officer who at the end of the story is praised by Holmes (and justly, as he turned out to have also found the correct solution).
    • Averted with Stanley Hopkins, who respects and even looks up to Holmes's methods.
  • Likewise, Inspector James Japp for Hercule Poirot, though more so in the Poirot television series than in the original novels by Agatha Christie. This is partly because the early Poirot stories, on which the series is largely based, followed the Sherlock Holmes pattern quite rigidly, with Poirot as Holmes, Captain Hastings in the role of Doctor Watson, and Inspector Japp playing the Lestrade part.
    • However, it needs to be said that Japp is a really competent inspector who solved many cases on his own. It's just that compared to Poirot, absolutely nobody is really competent.
  • Archie Goodwin functioned as a Lestrade for Nero Wolfe. However, Archie is smart and quick enough to connect most of the dots, to the point where he often figures out where his boss is going with a case before the last chapter (deliberately refusing to share it with the reader until Wolfe reveals the solution, of course). But he isn't really bothered when he doesn't: "That's why we keep a genius around here."
    • Inspector Cramer is also an example. He also counts as an Obstructive Bureaucrat. Wolfe points out that for 99% of murders, Cramer is better suited to the job. Wolfe is only needed for weird stuff.
  • Westman Block became this in Glen Cook's Garrett, P.I. series. Justified in that, when Block joined the force, it was more concerned with keeping the city free of riots and the lower classes off the Hill than with actually solving crimes: Block didn't really have anyone to learn proper detective techniques from.
  • The father of Encyclopedia Brown tends to fall into this trope, despite being the chief of police. His son can usually solve the case, though.
    • Mentioned in the books that he can usually solve the case on his own, and that it's only about once a month or so he needs Encyclopedia's help. Still not the best record, though.
  • M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth murder mysteries feature Chief Inspector Blair who is a combination of this trope and the Sitcom Arch Nemesis.
  • M.C. Beaton's other Detective Agatha Raisin has P.C. Bill Wong, who's actually a pretty good Police officer. In Quiche of Death he actually works out who the murderer is at the same time as Agatha and ends up saving her when she gets in over her head.
  • Milo Sturgis fills this role in the Alex Delaware books by Jonathan Kellerman.
  • The Lord Darcy story "The Bitter End" features a Clouseau Expy who grabs the Lestrade role in both hands. He's barely on the scene until he decides that because he can't see how the victim was poisoned, A Wizard Did It, and since Master Sean is the first wizard he encounters ....
  • In The Thrawn Trilogy, when Captain Pellaeon isn't being The Watson, he's the good type of this for the Grand Admiral. While he's observant and intelligent, he always comes to simpler conclusions. Thrawn always either overrides him or nudges him into seeing what really happened.
    • By the time Pellaeon is anAdmiral, however, his strategizing has become much more like Thrawn's.
  • In the Erast Fandorin story Leviathan, French detective M. Gauche plays the role. Until, that is, he does find the true killer and blackmails them to keep it quiet.
  • Turned on it's head in one of Larry Niven's Gil Hamilton stories. Gil (An ARM agent) does the real detective-ing, while a civilian detective story buff that knew the victim and suspect plays Lestrade. Gil recognizes the kid hoping for this trope to be true, but it's anything but.
    • More to type in The Patchwork Girl. Though technically the Moon is under UN and ARM jurisdiction, Gil's still an outsider, and official detective work may interfere with his diplomatic duties. A Luna policewoman and the mayor's son share the role of Lestrade for this story, and Gil tags along behind them figuring things out.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • When drawing all the comparisons between Sherlock Holmes and House MD, Dr. Cuddy most commonly fits the Lestrade role. She was a competent doctor, but spends most of her time behind the scenes in the administrative role. Add into that the fact that in the first seasons, House kind of tricked her into doing his boring legwork and the modern "I hate you, but you're too useful to fire" relationship commonly seen in adaptations today. His team fits this to a lesser degree.
  • Captain Stottlemeyer for Monk. He's a competent policeman, but no match for Monk's skills, as he himself is quite aware.
  • Psych has Carlton "Lassie" Lassiter, who serves as this. There's a bit of a twist, in that Lassiter is a rather competent detective and often comes close to solving the problem on his own.
  • To some extent, FBI Special Agent Don Eppes with regard to his brother, Charlie, on Numb3rs.
  • Sgt Lewis for Inspector Morse.
    • Lewis' 'weakness' is that compared to Morse he has a private life, and he's more "people" orientated then Morse's fact focus.
  • Lt. Columbo famously subverts this, although he himself would probably say otherwise.
  • Simon Brimmer in the 1975 adaptation of Ellery Queen.
  • Cabot Cove's Sheriff Amos Tupper (and later Sheriff Mort Metzger) in Murder, She Wrote.
    • In their defence, they're both incredibly competent in the day-to-day things a small town sheriff would have to do.
  • Jonathan Creek didn't have a recurring Lestrade character, but individual episodes sometimes had one. One example is Inspector Gideon Pryke from Black Canary, who like a good Lestrade spots several clues, impresses Jonathan by figuring out part of the case, but cannot solve it all himself.
  • Mikio Jinno in Kamen Rider Double.
  • Detective Bum Woo in the Korean Series Bad Boy.
  • In Sherlock, Inspector Lestrade is both a helpful, self-aware version of this trope, as well as being a Friend on the Force.
    • The DVD commentary reveals that an important part of casting Lestrade was finding someone who the audience could believe would, if Sherlock Holmes did not exist, eventually solve the crimes on his own.
  • Various characters of this type show up throughout the entire run of Doctor Who.


Videogames[edit | hide]

  • Detective Gumshoe from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Also Ema Skye in Apollo Justice. Shi-Long Lang fills a similar role in Investigations, though he switches between this trope and Inspector Javert.
  • Dojima of Persona 4. He figures out a great deal about the murders, and that his Heroic Mime nephew is involved in the case. Unfortunately, he doesn't realize that he's living in an Urban Fantasy setting so he really can't do much. And then he's handed the Idiot Ball.
    • Dojima is more Locked Out of the Loop than this trope. He manages to stay relatively close with the Investigation team on solving the murders with only about half (or less) of the clues and later on, he's the only cop still working on the case despite the fact that the rest of the department believes that it has been closed. A better example would be his partner, Adachi, from whom the main characters learn much about the police investigation (Dojima himself remains tight lipped about the subject) though it turns out that Adachi is the real killer and has spent the entire game misleading you.
  • Inspector Chelmey of the Professor Layton games fits this trope to a T. He jumps to conclusions regarding the second game's murder case, and Layton must set him straight. Chelmey apparently has a reputation for being a detective who gets solid results...Something the game notes as being a tad presumptuous about his abilities.
    • In fact, his treating the matter as a murder at all casts doubts on his competence. You can't have a murder investigation without proof that somebody died, and non-medical personnel cannot legally declare someone to be dead unless the body is in pieces. So he was investigating a murder - and actually tried to arrest a man for that murder - without any evidence that a murder took place at all. This becomes especially clear at the end, where it is revealed that not only was there no foul play involved in what happened to the doctor, he hadn't actually died.
  • Sheriff George Woodman of Deadly Premonition is a no-nonsense guy who's pretty good at rounding up normal small-town criminal elements but is a bit outclassed when it comes to dealing with the outlandish murders that start occurring in his town. Or that's what he wants you to think...


Western Animation[edit | hide]