You’ve heard of Sherlock Holmes, right? Born in 1854, he worked as a consulting detective in London, retiring in 1904. His apartments and home office, which he shared with his friend and biographer Dr John Watson, were famously located at 221B Baker St, in the Westminister neighbourhood. Together, the famous pair assisted the London Constabulary in solving hundreds of crimes and capturing dozens of criminals, among them crime lord James Moriarty.
What not everyone knows is that Sherlock Holmes is fictional – he never really lived. But he was so well-realized by his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, and he so captured the imagination of his fans, that he has since taken on a life of his own.
Holmes wasn’t even the first fictional detective! That honour is widely understood to be held by a C. Auguste Dupin, the detective from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue – a short story from 1841 that is considered the original modern detective story. Poe’s story originated many tropes that would become familiar to readers of detective fiction, such as:
- A detective who is not a police officer, but a genius amateur who takes on the mystery as a challenge
- An assistant to the detective who serves as narrator
- Novel, cutting-edge investigative techniques used by the detective
- Clues that are presented to the reader in such a way that a clever reader could, theoretically, have solved the mystery themselves
Other famous fictional detectives who would capture the imagination of millions (and who you’ve probably heard of too!) include Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple (created by Agatha Christie), Peter Whimsey (created by Dorothy L Sayers), and Nero Wolfe (created by Rex Stout).
More detectives are taking on a life of their own, even today, with Canada’s own Detective William Murdoch (created by Maureen Jennings). You can take part in Murdoch’s story in our escape game Murdoch Mysteries: The Secret of Station House No 4, and be a part of the long-standing tradition of living the lives of fictional detectives.