Fantasy detectives

Why is it that every detective novel features the same stereotypical hero? Do they bear any resemblance to reality?

I’ve read a few recently, courtesy of an unofficial book club, ie my neighbour gets free books and passes them onto us.

The latest one I read was a Kathy Reichs tale, Death du Jour. Our gritty heroine, Temperance Brennan (what a name, no wonder she had problems with alcohol, perhaps that was the author’s sense of humour) is a forensic anthropologist, somewhat like the author. She gets called Tempe for short. I am waiting for the day when she becomes vegetarian and starts eating tempe(h) because that was what came to mind every time I read the name.

This isn’t just bog-standard crime and gory post-mortem exams, this woman looks at bones. I haven’t seen the TV series Bones, but no doubt everyone else has so you get the idea.

But onto the detective. Naturally there is a tall dark handsome detective in there, with stunning blue eyes. He is of course, somewhat cynical, incredibly intelligent, witty, has firm lean muscles, and comes out with brief one-liners.

Despite this tough macho exterior, he is of course deeply caring inside. Dedicated to his job, and trying to bed our heroine. She of course finds him annoying, irritating, and very attractive. Conveniently she has split up from her husband (that was in the first of the series, this is the second).

In fact, there isn’t that much interaction between them in the book, there was far more detail about flies and maggots and in what order they feed on corpses, which it seems is a good way to date time of death. Who would want to read pages about that apart from forensic anthropologists or entomologists?

It’s not the only tale I’ve read like this with gritty professional heroine and tall handsome detective who end up working together. It just happens to be the one I finished two days ago.

Whatever happened to Hercule Poirot though? A nice short fat arrogant man. Far more likely to be the average detective I would have thought.

In fact the only detective inspector I met worked for the London Metropolitan Police force, and I wrote about him on Everypic. If you haven’t read it, nip over to read about corruption in the Met. πŸ˜€

He definitely wasn’t tall dark and handsome. He was not tall, darkish, probably going receding hairlinish, not handsome, think he was verging towards solid (ie chubby) rather than lean and mean in the muscle department, although to be fair I didn’t see him with his clothes off. He was usually sitting on our step with partner having a beer on Friday evening when I arrived.

And that’s the limit of my personal knowledge of detectives.

Back to the stories (I think novel is a bit grandiose for crime tales). As so many of these crime novels are written by women, I’m wondering if this stereotypical detective is every woman’s fantasy man.

1) Invariably stunning deep blue eyes or piercing green ones. Soppy brown eyes don’t do it in the sexually attractive stakes.

2) Tall.

3) Not fat. Lean, taut muscles.

4) Colour of hair isn’t that important, but brown or dark tends to add to that air of authority.

5) Single. They have to be, because they need to be available for our heroine.

6) Had a recent previous relationship, that their inner self is getting over.

7) Witty, funny, and just so intelligent. Very good at their job and catching the crims.

8) Fearless.

9) Assertive, both at work and with women.

10) But also charming when necessary.

11) Always good in bed and knows exactly what to do to turn women on.

12) Persistent. When our heroine rejects their advances, they don’t take no for an answer, continuing to pester call, thereby showing their absolute and faithful desire for this particular woman.

13) Protective of said heroine.

14) Caring, loving, and thoughtul when they aren’t taking the piss or being cynical or flippant or provocative.

15) Well dressed. Although they are so gorgeous, their clothes are probably irrelevant.

Where are these men?

About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
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14 Responses to Fantasy detectives

  1. Vicky says:

    You hit the nail on the head there with your ‘hero’ description πŸ˜†
    I can’t answer for the book heroes as I’m not an avid reader, but the same hero exists in every TV and film too. πŸ™‚
    A prime example is James Bond, though I have to admit, my favourite is still brown eyed Sean Connery πŸ™‚


    • Yes. Totally unrealistic. I thought how many more of these stereotypes am I going to read about? Uh? Gets boring after a while.

      I didn’t even mention spies, although I could have done, eg Smiley – John Le Carre, or Len Deighton’s Bernard Sampson. Anyway I like Daniel Craig and his lovely blue eyes, even though I couldn’t be bothered to go watch Skyfall last week!


  2. I haven’t read the book but it sounds like the TV series Bones, exactly. Anyway, the stereotype portrayed in all forms of media are just as you described but have you ever noticed the classifications are usually a mix of mystery and fiction?
    As I am such a cynic I’m going to run with the idea that mystery is in the story line and the fiction is the fantasy that such “heroes” exist. The last time I met a knight in shinning armour (like these modern day characters are portraying) was – never.
    I’ve always believed the best part about good recreational media (books, films) is that they can take you away from real life and into another world for a while. If you are there with a good looking man at the time well.. all the better. πŸ™‚


    • I like your mystery/fiction analysis. Heroes huh? A bit like fantasy women too. You know the rich beautiful ones who fulfill the whore in bed, chef in the kitchen and lady in the sitting room requirements. Yawn.

      I prefer different types of books. I like the harder ones where the heroes/heroines aren’t perfect. Although I notice that in books written by men, the women are, of course, beautiful. Clearly everyone has the same fantasies. The truth is there are not that many beautiful people around. And if they are beautiful on the outside, what’s the bet they certainly aren’t on the inside?


      • I agree with you 100%.The fantasy goes for both sexes. Thank goodness there isn’t a lot of beautiful people (on the outside) around, the stereotype I relate to them is brainless and either a bitch or a total a hole.
        I sound so judgemental!


  3. free penny press says:

    I have to admit, as much as I enjoy reading I have never read a Mystery or Detective novel. I know why..I would flip to the last few pages and find out how it all ends.. Never was one for surprises..
    Nonetheless, I enjoyed this post πŸ™‚


    • Haha. I used to do that with my childhood books. The Famous Five mystery stories (Enid Blyton, English author), I would get half way through and then whoosh, I couldn’t wait to cheat. I think my mother got to the point of ripping out the last page!!

      Hmm, but don’t you think your pearls and white gloves is a mystery in a way, and we’re all waiting to find out what happens, or how it ends, or how you get to where you are now?

      I don’t usually choose detective stories when I go to the library, but these are given to me. I read most of them, if they are too sick or full of gratuitous violence/rape/abuse against women of any type, I tend to chuck them in the bin. Censorship at its finest. If they are tolerable, I pass them on.


  4. EllaDee says:

    Reading material preferences, or aversions, fascinate me. I’ve not read Kathy Reichs, nor many detective novels I think… just 1 each Michael Connelly & Harlan Coban when they did a promo visit to Sydney and Mrs S. insisted on my company at an event, so I thought it would be more entertaining if I’d read something they had written. I was wrong. Thank God there were endless glasses of sparkling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the genre doesn’t have merit, it just not me. I’m not averse, just disinterested, so far. As with all things it could change given the right circumstances, like free books. And, no, not even via TV – never watched Bones. The “stereotypical detective is every woman’s fantasy man” does interest me, I think you/the authors are on the money there. “Where are these men?” I know one, but he isn’t a detective. Beauty is after all in the eye, behind rose tinted glasses, of the beholder πŸ˜‰


    • Ha, isn’t reading preference a bit like art taste? Although your roses and flowers are a long way from the street art you enjoy!

      I do read spy stories, but they are usually tough British ones. Otherwise, the only detective ones I have chosen have been Ian Rankin (Scottish). I tend to go for British, Indian, African, Spanish, Latin American authors as a rule, and steer away from American unless they are classics.

      I think detective novels tend to be sort of like holiday books. You read them in a day or two and dismiss them. What I dislike about them is the gory descriptions about who sliced who where and how and all the rest of it. I tend to skip those bits. I mean, who honestly wants to read that?

      For the record, my library books at the moment are:
      Graham Greene
      Len Deighton
      Ian Fleming
      Andy McNab

      They are basically all espionage, which I do find interesting, but at least, there is some interest in the tale, and no particular blood and guts in great and grisly detail.

      As for the men, fantasy and reality aren’t the same. At all. My real-life fantasy man doesn’t buy me flowers often, but when he does, it means something special. He does make me laugh, and he does have blue-grey eyes that can go extremely cold. Perhaps he would have made a good detective πŸ˜€


      • EllaDee says:

        I think that’s it, Harlan Cobin & Michael Connelly are American! Although I do read American authors but am a bit selective other than for holiday reading which needs to be engrossing or light enough that I don’t need to think but not so stupid as to be annoying. In the past I’ve read Len Deighton as Dad was reading them at one stage.
        For the first time in a while I have nothing lined up to read. I’m revisiting The Secret River by Kate Grenville which I’d forgotten I’d read until reminded by Marianne when she commented on the Matthias & Eupam post, as it is set in their time & place. After that I’ll either have to look at the G.O.’s book pile or my Goodreads list to prepare for the holidays.
        Maybe you could write a Gib detective story about the detective with the blue-grey eyes πŸ˜‰


  5. bluonthemove says:

    “Where are these men ?”

    Isn’t one of them sitting on the step playing with Pippa ?


    • πŸ˜€

      He’s not single. And he’s rarely well dressed unless you call shorts and workboots well dressed. Although on the rare occasion he does dress up he looks extremely smart. In his younger days he was once accused of looking like a male model.


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