[[quoteright:230:[[Film/TheMalteseFalcon http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/bogart1_2024.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:230:Sam Spade doesn't mind a reasonable amount of trouble.]]

->''Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. ''
-->-- "[[http://www.en.utexas.edu/amlit/amlitprivate/scans/chandlerart.html The Simple Art Of Murder]]", Creator/RaymondChandler

A {{seeker|s}} character frequently used in DetectiveDrama. A professional detective not directly affiliated with a police department in any official sense (although many will have [[FriendOnTheForce contacts in the department]], and it's not uncommon for members of this profession to have been either police officers or previously worked in law-enforcement, as many of the skill sets overlap), a Private Detective takes on cases that private citizens bring to them - however, whilst they aren't ''supposed'' to investigate crimes (which are official matters for the police, who often look dimly upon private detectives sticking their noses in - both in fiction and in [[TruthInTelevision real life]]), they usually [[MysteryMagnet find themselves knee-deep]] in murders, robberies and kidnappings by the end of the story. They may be doing this because the PoliceAreUseless and/or unconcerned about solving the case, meaning our detective is [[TheOnlyOne the only person]] who is actually willing or capable of solving it. However, this is often justified (especially in classical FilmNoir) by the detective starting off with a seemingly simple case, such as [[Film/{{Chinatown}} finding out if a woman's husband is committing adultery]] or [[Film/AngelHeart investigating the disappearance of a man who vanished twelve years ago in order to resolve a debt he had with a wealthy businessman]], only for things to [[MinorCrimeRevealsMajorPlot spiral out of control]] to the point that the only way for the detective to get out is to solve the case.

Although it's more common for a Private Detective these days to be treated as just one step away from the AmateurSleuth (or often, particularly if seen from the point of view of the police, as rather sleazy bottom-feeders usually involved in some kind of criminal activity and frequently ex-cops kicked off the force for some kind of corruption), the classic {{Archetype}} of the Private Detective - and the one that has generally stuck in the mind of people when they think of the profession - is either the GreatDetective or the HardboiledDetective. In RealLife, the PrivateDetective is often viewed as a PunchClockVillain for his or her use of SinisterSurveillance. The fact that they are officially licensed to go on a StalkingMission to track whoever they are hired to investigate (often for non-criminal activity like [[YourCheatingHeart adultery]]) puts them firmly in the camp of SociopathicHero, or a PsychoForHire with no respect for other individuals' privacy, depending on who you ask. In RealLife, some private investigators may also function as a BountyHunter, as the two professions are incredibly similar (although a BountyHunter will usually confront the individual he or she is tracking directly - a PrivateInvestigator typically will ''not'' if he or she can help it).

While the comparison with the AmateurSleuth is common, in many ways the stories work the opposite ways. The AmateurSleuth, such as MissMarple, tend to cozy locked room mysteries, where everything starts complicated and uncertain, but slowly works its way down as a logic puzzle, with a tidy solution where the killer is unmasked. The PrivateInvestigator tends to start simple, but as the investigation will unravel an ever more complicated plot, and the ending is rarely tidy. MinorCrimeRevealsMajorPlot is a common thread. The killer may be unmasked, but larger problems tend to stay unsolved.

VampireDetectiveSeries often feature one as a protagonist, though of the immortal variant.

----
!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Manga/DeathNote'': L.
* Rin Asougi of ''{{Mnemosyne}}'' is an ''[[{{Immortality}} immortal]]'' private detective who [[KnifeNut chucks knives at people]], knows WaifFu, and [[GoodThingYouCanHeal has a tendency to get mutilated/killed... a lot]].
* ''Manga/DetectiveConan'' Kogoro Mouri, Heiji, and main character Conan Edogawa/Shinichi Kudo. In fact, Kogoro has often been shown to do stuff that people usually hire private detectives for - tracking people suspected of adultery, trying to track down someone who is lost (but not officially considered a missing person, like deadbeat dads or former friends).
* One of them in ''JapanInc'' finds out that a big union boss is a customer in an S&M club.
* In ''Anime/TheAnimatrix'' segment ''[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Detective Story]]'', Ash is hired to track down a computer hacker by the name of Trinity. A mash of FilmNoir and Literature/AliceInWonderland {{Shout Out}}s ensues.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comicbooks]]
* Heironymous "Hip" Flask is a private eye and anthropomorphic hippo in the ''ComicBook/{{Elephantmen}}'' comics.
* From Comicbook/{{E-Man}} comes Michael Mauser. Just... don't call him Mickey.
* ''JudgeDredd'' spinoff The Simping Detective features Jack Point, a judge working undercover as a private detective. In clown gear. Simping is a fashion trend/sub-culture in Mega City One. The point of the trend is to look as stupid as possible so that people will bother to notice that you exist.
* German example: ''ComicStrip/NickKnatterton''.
* Dwight from SinCity. [[spoiler: His career comes to an end once he's wanted for murder, however.]]
* In the ''[[ComicBook/SamAndMaxFreelancePolice Sam & Max]]'' universe, the main characters are rather atypical private detectives (though they prefer the term "freelance police"), while their neighbor Flint Paper is a more stereotypical, two-fisted, DirtyHarry type.
* ''ComicBook/MsTree'': She and her husband owned a private detection firm; she's carried on [[spoiler:since his death.]]
* Jennifer Mays from ''TheMazeAgency''
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* Two of the most famous roles of HumphreyBogart form the TropeCodifier for the HardboiledDetective variant: Sam Spade in ''Film/TheMalteseFalcon'' and Phillip Marlowe in ''Film/TheBigSleep''.
** A 1975 film ''The Black Bird'' is a comedy sequel to ''Film/TheMalteseFalcon'' with George Segal playing Sam Spade, Jr.
* Casey Affleck's character in ''Film/GoneBabyGone'' is an example of a modern PI.
* ''Film/KissKissBangBang'' has [[PlayingWithATrope fun]] with all the FilmNoir tropes, this one included: Val Kilmer's character 'Gay' Perry Van Shrike is a hard-bitten, tough-talking, gun-slinging PrivateDetective who's also, well... gay. And considers his job very boring. And, at least until Harry and Harmony come into his life, isn't exactly dogged in his pursuit of justice.
* In ''Film/LethalWeapon4'', Leo Getz becomes a licensed PI. This garners much comedy for Riggs and Murtaugh.
-->'''Riggs:''' Excuse me, private investigator? Could you investigate my privates?
* ''Film/AceVentura: Pet Detective''
* ''Film/{{Shaft}}'': Who's the black private dick, that's a sex machine to all the chicks?
* In ''The Big Fix'', Richard Dreyfuss plays the most true to life private detective ever filmed. Like real private detectives, he spends most of his time on divorce cases and (mostly legal) corporate espionage and commercial investigations. For the movie he does deal with a murder, but there is no doubt it's the first one he's come across in years of detective work.
* In keeping with its inspiration from classical noir, ''Film/AngelHeart'' centres around a classical private detective, though he doesn't wear the suit and fedora as much as some of the others on this list. Unfortunately, the things he ends up dealing with are probably a heck of a lot more horrific than the other people on this list.
* In ''Film/TheresSomethingAboutMary'' Matt Dillon plays Pat Healy, a modern day private detective who is hired to stalk on the title character for a ex-lover in high school. Pat averts the honorable portion of the trope by going after Mary for himself.
* ''Film/PainAndGain'': Ed Du Bois, who got out of retirement, because he liked doing that far more than fishing and golf.
* ''Film/RockSlyde'' is a FilmNoir detective [[AffectionateParody parody]]; from having a decanter of mouthwash on his desk, to using online auction feedback to boost his self-esteem. He still narrates in a [[TheComicallySerious serious]] tone of voice.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* The works of Creator/DashiellHammett (''Literature/TheMalteseFalcon'', ''Literature/RedHarvest'', etc.) and Creator/RaymondChandler (''Literature/TheBigSleep'', ''Farewell, My Lovely'', etc.) in particular are often credited with [[TropeMakers creating and popularizing]] the HardboiledDetective version.
** With Nick Charles as the more light-hearted version (although not as much as in [[Film/TheThinMan the movies]]).
* Creator/AgathaChristie's HerculePoirot is retired from the Belgian police force, emigrated to England during WorldWarI, and became a PrivateDetective in London.
* OlderThanRadio: SherlockHolmes is often described as the 'first consulting detective.' Private detectives existed prior to Holmes, but he claimed that being a 'consulting detective' was something different:
-->'Well, I have a trade of my own. I suppose I am the only one in the world. I'm a consulting detective, if you can understand what that is. Here in London we have lots of government detectives and lots of private ones. When these fellows are at fault, they come to me, and I manage to put them on the right scent. They lay all the evidence before me, and I am generally able, by the help of my knowledge of the history of crime, to set them straight.'
* John Taylor of SimonRGreen's {{Nightside}} books is a classic - if slightly skewed - example of a private eye.
* Joe Sixsmith, a character of crime fiction author Reginald Hill, subverts most of the basic PrivateDetective characteristics: a short, balding, middle-aged, black private eye from Luton, whose hobbies include singing in a choir and motor mechanics. His main talents are being a nice, sympathetic sort of guy, knowing when he doesn't know things, and tremendous serendipity.
* Robert B. Parker's {{Spenser}} is a modern, politically correct version of the type. If anything, he errs as far on the "sensitive" side of the "sensitive tough" archetype as MikeHammer errs on the "tough" side.
* The titular character of the ''Joe Copp'' series, written by Don Pendleton (also the author of ''TheExecutioner'' series), is a private detective who used to be a cop.
* Mma Precious Ramotswe (in the ''TheNo1LadiesDetectiveAgency'' series by Alexander [=McCall=] Smith) subverts almost all of this trope, being a kind and overweight Botswanan lady who solves everyday problems, like absconding husbands, by a sharp psychological perception, persistence and being able to win the confidence of others.
* Nohar Rajasthan from S. Andrew Swann's ''Literature/MoreauSeries'' of books is a down-on-his-luck PI... who just happens to be an 8'-tall humanoid tiger SuperSoldier.
* The early TabletopGame/{{Shadowrun}} novel ''[=2XS=]'' has a noir-ish private eye story in TabletopGame/{{Shadowrun}}'s infamous CyberPunk plus magic world.
* In L. Jagi Lamplighter's ''ProsperosDaughter'' trilogy, Mab's body was modeled after Bogart, and he acts as the company detective.
* Rex Stout's Literature/NeroWolfe was a somewhat sedentary stay-at-home version of this; narrator Archie Goodwin did most of the legwork, and if they needed more legs they'd hire three other private investigators.
* In the children's mystery series, ''TrixieBelden'', the title character and her bestfriend, Honey, plan on opening the Belden-Wheeler Detective Agency when they're older.
* This is how [[TheDresdenFiles Harry Dresden]] makes his living, though he's really an OccultDetective.
* KinseyMillhone is one.
* Helen Walsh in ''[[Creator/MarianKeyes The Mystery Of Mercy Close]]'' is one as well as a DefectiveDetective in that she's severely depressed but still does her job anyway. It's mentioned by her sisters that Helen went through a variety of jobs before settling into her career as a private detective.
* In Creator/WenSpencer's Literature/UkiahOregon series Max Bennett runs the Bennett Detective Agency, which he created mostly to give him a justification to look for missing persons in memory of his dead wife. Ukiah is also a licensed PI, as is Bennett's later love interest Sam Killington.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Angel}}'' started out as a private detective, before he made the transition from "supernatural crime" to "supernatural". The trope is subverted in that Angel and his TrueCompanions are better at fighting demons, and sometimes have to hire a real PI when actual investigating is required.
* Humorously [[TheParody parodied]] in the Canadian TV series ''Butch Patterson: Private Dick''. Butch is given to internal monologues, wears a fedora everywhere he goes, refers to himself as a "Dick", and drinks very heavily...so heavily, in fact, that he's known to continually wet his pants and prematurely ejaculate. To make matters worse, he's also got a thing for prostitutes, a tendency to wake up in strange places after passing out drunk, and [[NoodleIncident it's unlikely he'll ever live down that incident at the petting zoo.]] In spite of this, he's actually a very competent detective, and generally manages to solve the case, although he quickly blows whatever money he makes on pornography and whores.
* A somewhat early TV example: Creator/JohnCassavetes' piano player turned "jazz detective" Johnny Staccato, in [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Staccato the eponymous 1959 show]] .
* ''{{Moonlight}}'''s Mick St. John started out as a private detective, before he made the transition from "supernatural crime" to "supernatural".
* An episode of ''{{NCIS}}'' has the team working with a private investigator. Gibbs expresses his contempt for the fellow by repeatedly referring to him as a "private dick," emphasis on the second word.
* Jim Rockford of ''TheRockfordFiles'' is a straight example. He's an ex-con (albeit innocent of the charges and officially pardoned). He also edges the AffectionateParody line.
* ''MagnumPI'' is about one of those: from his contacts in the police to the monologuing, the [[BuffySpeak trope fits him to a T... for Trope.]]
* Keith Mars (former cop) and Vinnie Van Lowe (stereotypical sleazeball) of ''VeronicaMars''.
* In one episode of ''MarriedWithChildren'' Al Bundy dreams that he is a noir-style private eye.
* Shotaro Hidari of ''Series/KamenRiderDouble'' is a PrivateDetective. However he isn't as hardboiled as he likes to think he is, leading to his fellows referring to him as "half-boiled". Both major characters refer to themselves as "two detectives in one": Shotaro does the field investigations while his partner Philip (named after Philip Marlow) does the research back home. Prior to the two meeting Shotaro worked for another, much more hard-boiled detective whose death helps to kick off the events of the series.
* ''SimonAndSimon'': Rick and AJ Simon, brother [=PIs=].
* Emerson Cod from ''PushingDaisies''. He would like nothing better than to be able to just have Ned get the pertinent facts from a corpse, and then collect the rewards in short-order, with as little effort for him as possible. He also primarily deals in cases where the death has been written off as an accident or the police themselves offer a reward for any valuable information related to a case.
* ''GossipGirl''s Chuck Bass has one on speed dial. And that's not his ''only'' private investigator. His father also had a couple.
* This is a decent description of Michael Westen from ''Series/BurnNotice'' when he's working for his Client of the Week. He's even used private eye as a cover ID at least once, though on another occasion he notes that a PI license has privacy concerns (anything they uncover could end up in court).
* Adrian Monk of ''Series/{{Monk}}'' used to be police detective, but after his wife's murder he resigned and became a private detective that helps the police.
* The title of {{Psych}} refers to the name of the "private, physic detective agency" main characters Shawn and Gus run. They often get hired as offical police consultants as well, however.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Radio]]
* ''Yours Truly,Johnny Dollar''
* ''Richard Diamond,Private Detective''
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Roleplay]]
* In a homage to classical noir, Roleplay/DinoAttackRPG brought in a Private Detective actually named Bogart when it became clear that [[TheMole an unknown figure]] was conducting a series of murders.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Music]]
* ''Private Investigations'' by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Videogames]]
* Lewton, in ''DiscworldNoir'', both embodies and parodies this trope, due to the Disc's TheoryOfNarrativeCausality; he doesn't know ''why'' being a private investigator means he has to wear a trenchcoat and fedora, but he's quite sure it does.
* Raidou Kuzonoha from ''[[RaidouKuzunohaVsKingAbaddon Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzonoha Vs King Abaddon]]'' is sort of a cross between this and a Film/{{Ghost Buster|s}}.
* Attention-seeking "Ace Detective" Luke Atmey in ''VisualNovel/AceAttorney'', who is always just a step behind PhantomThief [=Mask*DeMasque=]. [[spoiler: Step ahead, actually. He's the one planning the heists and sending the thief the plans anonymously, so he both gets the items and makes himself look good.]]
** Despite being a defense attorney, Gregory Edgeworth is dressed like a stereotypical private detective in ''Ace Attorney Investigations 2''.
* Kyle Hyde from ''VideoGame/HotelDusk'' and ''VideoGame/LastWindow''.
* ProfessorLayton is ''not'' this, but he's constantly mistaken for one.
* The PlayerCharacter from the Videogame/DarkParables games is a detective who specializes in solving mysteries related to {{fairy tale}}s.
* Scott Shelby in ''HeavyRain''. [[spoiler:Subverted when it turns out he's just posing as one in order to eliminate all the evidence because he ''is'' the Origami Killer]].
* Douglas in ''SilentHill3''. He even has a NiceHat!
* Johnny Garland is one in ''ShadowHearts From the New World''. Surprisingly; he implies that a lot of the cases are simply helping someone track down missing pets, and takes a case offered by Gilbert simply because he wants more excitement in his life.
* ''VideoGame/RealityOnTheNorm'' has the recurring character Max Griff, who styles himself as a classic Noir private eye and has constant financial problems.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Originals]]
* ''VideoGame/DetectiveGrimoire''.
* In the online game ''Sleuth'', you create and play one who can have a background you either design from the ground up, or you can choose preset backgrounds including an ex-detective [[TheLastDJ disillusioned by the corruption in the system]], a [[IntrepidReporter freelance reporter]], a retired lawyer, or a [[ReformedCriminal reformed burglar]], among others. Naturally, which background you pick affects which skills you begin with and how you approach the game.
* DecoderRingTheatre's ''Podcast/BlackJackJustice'' is played straight, although there are two detectives, one male (Jack Justice) and one female (Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective), who take turns providing monologue.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* Problem Sleuth, Ace Dick, and Pickle Inspector, of ''ProblemSleuth''. Then again, their style of investigation generally involves wearing trenchcoats and fedoras, being generally hard-boiled, and [[ThePiratesWhoDontDoAnything not doing any actual detection.]] And still, Pickle Inspector wears a bowler and [[{{Cloudcuckoolander}} doesn't put very much effort into being hard-boiled at all.]]
* In an AffectionateParody, "[[http://cuteybunny.com/HBoiled/HBFrame.HTM Vikki Marlowe]], Hard Boiled [[IncrediblyLamePun Dyke-Tective]]". A MeaningfulName; there are at least two authors and one character (the above-mentioned Philip) in detective fiction named "Marlowe".
* In ''Webcomic/MonsieurCharlatan'', Isidore Charlatan. At least he was once, and a GreatDetective to boot.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''[[AnimatedAnthology Raw Toonage]]'' parodied it with "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0E_QZR5Xl8 Cro-Magnum PI]]", a Caveman Detective.
* ''{{Duckman}}'': Private Dick/Family Man
* Yashimoto of ''{{Cybersix}}''. How good was he? He was able to find our secretive title character and figure out her SecretIdentity over the span of a few days.
* Oscar Lightbulb from ''ArgaiTheProphecy''.
* {{Goofy}} as Johnny Eyeball in the [[ClassicDisneyShorts Disney short]], "How to Be a Detective".
* DaffyDuck played this role on several occasions. To wit:
** [[ComicStrip/DickTracy Duck Twacy]] in ''TheGreatPiggyBankRobbery''
** Duck Drake in ''The Super Snooper''
** [[Franchise/{{Dragnet}} Joe Monday]] in ''Rocket Squad''
** The title character in ''Boston Quackie''
* {{Garfield}} did a parody character named Sam [[JustForPun Spayed]].
--> Tanya: Are you [[UnfortunateNames Spayed?]]
--> Garfield: -[[{{Beat}} sighs]]- [[LampshadeHanging I never know how to answer that question.]]
* ''SheZow'' has moments where, aside from delivering justice from evildoers faster than the police, [=SheZow=] can a some "She-tective work" done.

[[/folder]]

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