Archetypal Great Detectives : Cliffhangers Crime Fiction Blog
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Archetypal Great Detectives

by Janet M. Coleman on 11/06/15

The recent passing of Henning Mankell, the Swedish author who created Kurt Wallander, one of crime fiction's finest "great detectives" set me musing about the qualities that make fictional characters great and the qualities that make great detectives. <Mankell Bio>

Great detectives catch criminals that no one else can. And they are standard bearers for their cultures' ideas and ideals of justice (their culture as described in the novels). They also have big personalities and stand apart from their comrades-in-detection and are smarter, luckier, crazier and much more driven than those around them. They also have enemies: giant, larger-than-life, epitome-of-evil enemies to pit their wits against.

Sherlock Holmes is such a character, of course. And I think Mankell's Kurt Wallender belongs in the category too. But wow! Very different personalities. Holmes represents the British Empire--arrogant, manic, entitled. Mankell represents the Swedish welfare state: anxious, caring, depressed. But both solve extraordinary crimes with extraordinary skill. And both are oddly loveable.

In a private homage to Mankell, I reread The Troubled Man, the last book in the Wallender series and it is as I remembered: one of the most moving series finales ever. Don't miss it. <More about the Wallander series>

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