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Phone-In Detective
You have an Amateur Sleuth or an Exotic Detective. And to prove just how smart he is, not only can he solve any case just by scanning the crime scene, he can also solve crimes without ever having to visit the scene. The Phone-In Detective is the detective who is able to do some of his sleuthing over the phone due to being away for some reason. Full time Phone-In Detectives are rare, often the detectives will only have to phone in very few of their cases their whole life and will only do so for special cases. It is not completely necessary for any phones to be involved, however.

Will sometimes be the only interaction the lead has in a Lower Deck Episode.

Not to be confused with detectives who are "phoning it in", ie doing an incredibly lazy half-assed job.


Examples:

Film
  • The Bone Collector. Quadriplegic forensics expert Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington) uses police officer Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie) as his eyes and ears to catch a serial killer.
  • In Copycat, Dr. Helen Hudson is a respected field expert on serial killers who has become an agrophobic shut-in after being attacked by serial killer Daryll Lee Callum. When a new series of murders spread fear and panic across San Francisco, Inspector M.J. Monahan and her partner Reuben Goetz solicit Helen's expertise. Initially reluctant, Helen soon finds herself drawn into the warped perpetrator's game of wits.
  • Early in Sherlock Holmes, the titular character hasn't left the flat for months after capturing Lord Blackwood having no interesting cases. Watson tries to get him interested in some cases, only for Holmes to brush him off having already solved them with the information in the letters alone.

Literature
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Edgar Allan Poe's C. August Dupin solved The Murder of Marie Roget by reading newspaper accounts.
  • Encyclopedia Brown sometimes, especially when solving cases for his father over dinner.
  • Nero Wolfe who rarely left his brownstone, having Archie Goodwin act as his leg man and collect all the information he needed to solve the crime.
    • And Nero Wolfe had an Expy in the Lord Darcy stories: Darcy's cousin the Marquis of London. As brilliant a mind as Darcy, but lazy (and cheap). So much so that he once had Darcy's assistant Master Sean arrested for murder so Darcy would be forced to solve the crime in order to prove his innocence.
      • Darcy countered by proving that the most likely suspect was Lord Bontriomphe, the Marquis's personal assistant (the Goodwin expy).
    • Parodied in The Areas of My Expertise with a detective who never leaves his bathtub.
  • Hercule Poirot once solved a crime without leaving his room for a bet. No phone was involved though, he just asked for police reports (and used his friend Hastings to run errands). On another occasion he was in bed with flu, and contacted Hastings at the scene via telegram.
  • The Argentine detective Don Isidro Parodi, created by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares under the pen name H. Bustos Domecq, is a man unjustly imprisoned whom friends (and friends of friends) come visit at his cell with stories about mysteries and crimes, which he never fails to solve just by listening to their reports.
  • Henry, of Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers mysteries, can solve any mystery after hearing it described over dinner.
  • Another Asimovian detective, Wendell Urth, was so afraid of travelling that he, like Nero Wolfe, worked almost entirely from home.
  • The Old Man in the Corner stories by the Baroness Orczy, creator of The Scarlet Pimpernel. A classic armchair detective, the Old Man relies mostly upon sensationalistic "penny dreadful" newspaper accounts, with the occasional courtroom visit. He narrates all this information, while tying complicated knots in a piece of string, to a female Journalist who frequents the same tea-shop (the ABC Teashop on the corner of Norfolk Street and the Strand). They enjoy an antagonistic relationship, as the Journalist attempts to cut the Old Man's ego down to size and the Old Man trumps her every time.
  • Agatha Christie had Tommy and Tuppence solve one case in the style of the Old Man in the Corner in Partners in Crime.
  • In The Roman Mysteries, Kid Detective Flavia solves several mysteries this way in some of the short stories, though in the regular novels she generally investigates mysteries on the scene.

Live-Action TV
  • The title character of the ITV series The Man In Room 17 was a sociologist who consulted on difficult police cases and solved them without ever leaving his office.
  • Monk once solved a hit and run by reading a newspaper. Then he solved a murder in France that was reported in the same newspaper and phoned the French police department about his revelation.
    • In direct parallel with Sherlock Holmes, we have Adrian's much smarter brother Ambrose, who never leaves his house. Unlike Mycroft's laziness, Ambrose is severely agoraphobic.
  • Psych: Shawn began his crime-solving career by reporting anonymous tips to the police through the phone based off observations he made watching news reports.
  • House, the medical detective, once had to solve a case through the phone while at the airport. Another case was solved over a webcam since the patient was stuck in Antarctica. Even in normal circumstances, he often can't be bothered to talk to the patient, and phones in a diagnosis via his underlings.
  • The Fat Man of Jake And The Fat Man?
  • Patrick Jane of The Mentalist once spent most of an episode in prison and still solved the case. One memorable trick: knowing Rigsby was on his way to interview a suspect, Jane phoned the suspect using Rigsby's name and insulted him, provoking the suspect to attack Rigsby and get himself arrested... and put in the same prison as Jane, who could then talk to him in person.
  • Arkady Balagan in Endgame suffers from agoraphobia, and refuses to leave his hotel. So he has Sam, and various hotel staff members, do his legwork for him.
  • Sherlock Holmes, during "A Scandal in Belgravia", solved a case via webcam, which gave him a few quick glances at the crime scene. While wearing nothing but a bedsheet.
    Irene Adler: You got all that from one look? Definitely the new sexy.
    • When he meets Mycroft at the Buckingham Palace, Mycroft tells him that he glanced at the case file and tells Holmes that the solution is obvious.
  • In an episode of Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, Sen was able to solve the mystery via the others describing the room they were in even though he was miles away (and in the villain's Death Trap.)
  • An extreme case in Quincy where not only was our hero in a hospital bed but a coma. Done by his friends asking themselves "what would Quincy do?", with some of their answers verging on telepathy.
  • Death in Paradise: In "An Unhelpful Aid", DI Poole is able to solve a murder while lying delirious in his sickbed, being fed information by Dwayne and Fidel.

Manga and Anime
  • The manga Remote was about such a detective—he'd developed agoraphobia, so was assigned a young policewoman with a two-way radio who did the leg work.
  • Death Note: L has been in hiding his entire career, and communicates via phone, computer and his intermediary Watari, emerging only on special occasions for particularly complex crimes or particularly helpful assistants.
  • Victorique from Gosick isn't allowed to leave the Academy until later in the story, so she often solves crimes based on descriptions of the circumstances given to her by witnesses.
  • Shinchi from Detective Conan pretends to be this sometimes when Conan reveals the answer to a case, but is actually there at the crime scene himself (as Conan).

Phone Call From The DeadPhone TropesPhone Number Jingle
Outranking Your JobCops and DetectivesPinkerton Detective
Pet the DogCharacterization TropesPhony Psychic
Perp WalkCrime and Punishment TropesPhone-Trace Race

alternative title(s): Armchair Detective
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