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The Exotic Detective
Coming This Fall: Some cops can read minds... Some cops can see the past... And some cops get help from angels... But there's still one cop with no special abilities whatsoever. Detective Klaus Mandela is... The Finder Outer!

The Exotic Detective is a detective who has some unusual quality that is important to their personality. While being a private detective is an unusual profession to most people, an Exotic Detective is one that has some very exotic trait that almost defines them. This will often take the form of a major character flaw of some kind.

This falls into two broad subtypes:
  1. The detective has an odd trait (such as a strange sickness or an unusual profession or background) that is "exotic" both to readers and to other characters. (For example, TV's Monk, who has OCD and multiple phobias.) Sometimes their background will be used to justify their crimefighting skills (as with G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown who noted that priests had a lot of experience with sin from hearing confessions all day).
  2. The detective is seen as ordinary by other characters; their "exotic" trait is that they exist in a setting that is unfamiliar to readers or regarded as an unusual setting for a detective story. (For example, Brother Cadfael, a medieval monk who solves crimes, or Yashim in Jason Goodwin's The Janissary Tree, who is a Court Eunuch in the last days of the Ottoman Empire.)

Common Types

See also Bunny-Ears Lawyer, Amateur Sleuth, and Interdisciplinary Sleuth.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 

  • Detective Conan: Conan is a a Teen Genius-turned-pre-Teen Genius.
  • L from Death Note. Pretty much everything about him, from the way his face looks, to the way he sits, to the way he picks things up, is just a little bit off.
  • Neuro from Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro is a demon detective. His only motivation for finding and solving mysteries is so he can then "consume" them to feed his "hunger".

     Comic Books  

  • Batman
    • the DC Verse has a lot of these, eg The Question, John Constantine
    • More in line with the general idea of the trope, back when mystery comics enjoyed some modest popularity, DC published stories featuring Detective Chimp, scientific investigator Darwin Jones, Roy Raymond: TV Detective, nautical detective Captain Compass, and occult debunker Dr. Thirteen.
  • A fair number of superheroes also like to have detectives as their alter ego, e.g. Martian Manhunter, The Spectre, etc.
  • The Green Lantern Corps is the police for the universe, and they're all green.
  • Marvel Universe Exotic Detective appear to be grouped by area of expertise (i.e. powers.)
    • Doctor Strange is the mystic/magic detective.
    • Tony Stark and Reed Richards take care of any "hard" science mysteries on the west and east coasts, respectively.
    • Alien races tend to take care of medical mysteries through advanced science.
    • Charles Xavier is the psychic detective (as in one who investigates mysterious psychic attacks, not as in investigating arbitrary mysteries using pyschic powers.)
    • Nearly every time traveler is involved in a mystery about why their past is different from the current past. (e.g. the time traveling detective.)
  • Detectives in Sin City are never normal.

    Film 

    Literature 

  • Hercule Poirot, an extremely eccentric Funny Foreigner. Also within the books, Ariadne Oliver's Finnish detective. She then loudly complains to Hercule that she wishes she had never invented him, because she knows nothing about Finland and people are constantly writing to her to tell her that Finns don't do that.
  • The protagonists of The Name of the Rose: detectives in a medieval monastary.
  • Sherlock Holmes, especially if you consider what he's like when he isn't a detective.
  • The Persian in The Phantom of the Opera is so defined by his nationality that he has no other name given.
  • Lord Peter Wimsey, who is an English aristocrat who detects for a hobby.
  • Sano Ichiro: Sano Ichiro himself, who's a Samurai Detective in the Edo era.
  • Lord Meren is the Eyes of Pharaoh, a nobleman and royal spymaster in the court of Tutanhkamun.
  • Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson, Egyptologists who detect because their path is littered with the bodies of murdered tomb robbers, spies, etc.
  • The Jane Austen Mysteries, which have — well, Jane Austen as a detective. It's surprisingly believable.
  • Charlie Chan, in the novels of Earl Derr Biggers and later in a long-running film series, was set apart by his Chinese origin and — in the movies — his brood of meddlesome comic-relief offspring. The 1930s saw at least two other superficially similar Asian detective characters, John P. Marquand's Mr. Moto and Hugh Wiley's Mr. Wong. Both of them had film adaptations as well.
  • The Howling Detective written by Gate Dragon for 2008's NaNoWriMo. A werewolf private investigator operating in a Fantasy Kitchen Sink version of Detroit, MI and taking jobs from both Muggles and other "mythical" folk.
  • Eric Garcia's Anonymous Rex series of novels, mysteries based in a world on the premise that the dinosaurs didn't die out and are living among us in secret. Starring Velociraptor sleuth Vincent Rubio.
  • Harry Dresden, wizard PI and crazy-awesome badass.
  • Isaac Asimov
    • R. Daneel Olivaw is a Robot Detective
    • Wendell Urth, an extremely agoraphobic detective who solved cases brought to his attention without ever leaving his home. For added exoticness, the crimes themselves often occurred in space!
  • Nero Wolfe is slightly less of a shut-in, but extremely reluctant to leave his home. Which is also home to a collection of rare orchids.
  • Boris Akunin's Sister Pelagia one-ups all your clerical detectives by being a late 19th century Russian Orthodox nun (and a church school teacher to boot). Did I mention that she is assisted and supervised by a bishop?
  • Sister Fidelma in the books by Peter Tremayne is a 7th century Celtic Church nun, who is also a lawyer of the Irish courts. Oh, and she's a member of the Munster royal family, and married (the Celtic Church allowed this) to her Watson, a Saxon.
    • There's also Brehon Mara of the Burren in western Ireland, circa 1509 — who uses the same laws as Fidelma in a society that by that period was about to be supplemented by England.
  • Lord Darcy, a Sherlock Holmes pastiche in a world of magic.
  • Glen Cook's Garrett, whose name is almost certainly a Shout-Out to Lord Darcy author Randall Garrett.
  • Erast Fandorin: Erast, especially after his first three books, fulfills both types of this trope. From the point of view of a modern reader he's in an alien setting (nineteenth-century Russia), and from the point of view of his contemporaries he's unusual because of the time he spent in Japan and the way it influenced him.
  • Thomas Carnacki of Carnacki The Ghost-Finder.
  • Alan Gordon's "Fools Guild" mysteries, beginning with "The Thirteenth Night", feature Theopolis, a jester during the 12th century. Theopolis was in fact Feste, the fool from Shakespeare's "The Twelfth Night".
  • G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown is a crime-solving Catholic priest, as is Ralph McInerny's Father Dowling.
  • Marcus Didius Falco, a Hardboiled Detective in Ancient Rome.
  • The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzch about a detective who is the daughter of a hangman. The author was the descendant of a family of executioners who wished to stick up for his ancestors and remind us that they were human.
  • The titular character of the Mediochre Q Seth Series is a professional catcher of illegal monster-slayers who can calculate exact probabilities on the fly, and is also stuck with a Healing Factor that won't let him age past fifteen.
  • Interestingly the Yashim Series may have spawned copycats. The John the Lord Chamberlain series is about a Byzantine Eunuch and the Tito Amato series by Beverle Graves Myers about a castrato. It may actually be that there is a niche market of frustrated singles that this is appealing to.
  • The Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee series by Tony Hillerman would have originally come across as this. It's about detectives on the Navajo Tribal Police force who investigate crimes on the reservation. Thanks to Hillerman's influence, however, the Native American detective novel is today a popular subgenre.
  • Hillerman himself was influenced by the Bony series, about an Australian half-Aboriginal detective.
  • The Karen Harper's Queen Elizabeth I mysteries has a queen as a detective!
    • At least two series feature her ladies-in-waiting as detectives.
  • The detective protagonist of Tim Waggoner's Necropolis is a zombie. Not the brainless, shuffling, flesh-eating type, just the kind that can't get laid and worries about his body parts falling off.
  • Acatl, the main character of Obsidian And Blood, is the second type: the High Priest of the Dead in the Aztec Empire, whose job it is to solve murders and other mysterious crimes.

     Live Action TV  

  • Monk
  • Ironside: A detective in a wheelchair.
  • Life: The main character, Charlie Crews, went to jail for murder, but was recently acquitted. He's also a millionaire. And he's Zen (or at least Zen-ish).
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: There is definitely something different about Detective Goren. That something being, probably, a mental problem that should be treated. It is partially an act. When asking questions he uses his size to control the space in the room and seem as intimidating as possible without seeming overtly hostile. Outside of interrogations he's a bit off but not quite crazy.
  • Angel acted like this every once in a while for the first 2 seasons of his show, as he had to play private eye to figure out who he was supposed to beat up with his vampire powers/how to best beat them up.
  • The short-lived Blind Justice featured a detective who was blind, as did the '70s series Longstreet.
  • Many '70s detective shows had this, including Barnaby Jones (he's old!), Cannon (he's fat!), and McCloud (he's a cowboy!).
    • Others were marked as "exotic" by their ethnicity, including Columbo (Italian), Kojak (Greek), and Banacek (Polish).
    • Columbo used this in-show as a major plot point, the rich bad guys not taking this sloppy unkept lower class Police Lieutenant seriously...at first.
  • Philip of Kamen Rider Double has the semimagical ability to access all of the world's information. A rather useful skill for detective work. His partner Shotaro might apply as well, considering that the two of them can become a Kamen Rider.
  • Spoofed on Boy Meets World when Eric notices the popularity of this type of character and pitches a detective show called "Good Looking Guy" to his father, complete with a theme song.
  • Pie in the Sky is about a policeman who is trying to retire and spends as much time running the restaurant he is retiring to run as he does fighting crime.
  • Gregory House, arguably a "medical detective".
  • The Mentalist's Patrick Jane, while technically merely a 'consultant', probably qualifies as a 'consulting detective' in real terms. And is more than a slight bit odd. At least when you consider he's a little bit sociopathic and has apparently decided that being nice to other people unnecessarily (by his standards) is a waste of his time.
  • The main character of Pushing Daisies is an Amateur Sleuth who can raise the dead.
  • Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the only Shape Shifter in the quadrant, making his job quite a bit easier.
  • Carrie Wells of Unforgettable has hyperthymesia, which allows her to perfectly remember everything she experiences.
  • Walter Sherman and his compulsion to find in The Finder.
  • Amos Burke on Burkes Law is an LAPD captain who also happens to be a millionaire. He wears tailored suits, lives in a Big Fancy House, has tony hobbies like horseback riding, and rides from crime scene to crime scene in a chauffeured Rolls Royce.

    Music 
  • Detective Professor Nathan Adler in David Bowie's Rock Opera 1. Outside is a hybrid of a detective and an art critic. In the Twenty Minutes into the Future setting of the story, "art-crimes" (such as "concept-muggings" and, kicking off the plot, the grisly murder of a teenaged girl whose corpse is subsequently turned into an artwork) are on the rise and the investigation of them is handed over to a specialized corporation, Art-Crime Inc. Adler not only has to figure out who's responsible for these crimes, but determine whether they are art or not. Even his line of work is seen as a form of artistic expression in and of itself.

    Radio 
  • That Mitchell and Webb Sound has Detective Tortoise, whose quirk is that he's a tortoise, a fact he makes sure to remind the witness of constantly. Partway through it's revealed that this is not true. His real quirk is apparently that he's a human being who believes, and has somehow convinced his colleagues, that he's actually a tortoise.

     Video Games  
  • Sly Cooper has Carmelita Fox, a (supposedly) Hispanic fox with some definite chemistry with the titular thief himself.
  • Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army has a teenage detective with the ability to see and control demons and use them to influence moods and read minds.
  • Ace Attorney
    • Everyone in the series has some odd quirk and the detectives are no exception. Gumshoe's probably the most normal of the bunch.
    • Miles Edgeworth, the titular investigator in Ace Attorney Investigations. He's a prosecutor, not a detective, but somehow he winds up solving all the mysteries by himself anyway.
    • Interpol Agent Shi-Long Lang, from the ambigiously Asian country of Zheng Fa, has a slight fixation with wolf metaphors and themes.
  • The Dead Case: In this online flash game you play a ghost who solves his own murder.
  • In The Space Bar, you play a detective that can read people's memories as an interrogation method, with large chunks of the game involving playing through said memories.

     Web Comics 

  • The Dragon Doctors has the eponymous doctors solve a few mysterious magical crimes with the help of "Inspector Blue," a detective made out of blue crystals. The investigative work is pretty sound, but it's the setting that's bizarre.

    Web Original 
  • Ultra Fast Pony turns into a cop show parody for "Stay Tuned". Pinkie Pie gets partnered with Gummy, a psychic detective.

     Western Animation  


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alternative title(s): Exotic Detective
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