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Interdisciplinary Sleuth

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"To be a real policeman
Be big and strong by heck
But let the strength be always found
Just above the neck."
Courtesy is the Best Policy, a tribute to the Newfoundland Ranger Force

This character is an expert, trained in some field where crime-fighting is not a usual goal. They however use this expertise to catch criminals, probably alongside a more conventional Detective Drama hero (i.e., a police officer or private investigator).

A Sub-Trope of Amateur Sleuth. If the talent is magic, the character is an Occult Detective. Compare Superhero and The Exotic Detective. Contrast Mundane Utility. See also Mystery Fiction.


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  • During her time with the Fantastic Four, She-Hulk investigated a photographer who was taking pics of her sunbathing on the Baxter Building by helicopter. At one point she commented, "Well, I'm a lawyer, which makes me 25% detective." When the sleaze-bag journalist told her that the pictures were being processed and the negatives were in his safe and that if she took the negatives, she'd be in violation of the law, she simply crushed the safe down to where it couldn't be opened by anyone. Unfortunately for the journalist, the lab color-corrected the prints, making it appear that She-Hulk was just an unnamed, tall woman, preserving her privacy, from a certain point of view.


  • In the early days of his meeting Sherlock Holmes, Watson put together a list of the vast and curiously disparate fields of knowledge his roommate possessed (including chemistry, anatomy, geology and geography of London, "sensational literature", poison, and close-quarters combat, among others), without a clue as to what use he put them to. As it turns out, "consulting detective" is about the last thing Watson would have guessed.
  • Father Brown; the title character uses his priestly knowledge of human evil — acquired mainly from hearing confessions — to help him solve crimes.
  • Brother Cadfael is a monk and apothecary. And retired Crusader.
  • Surviving the Applewhites has an In-Universe example — Debbie Applewhite writes a series of books about a florist who solves mysteries.
  • Sano Ichiro, an honorable Samurai who happens to be very good at solving mysteries.
  • In Fred Vargas' novels, there's Matthias Delamarre, who is an archaeologist specializing in prehistory. Since he's exceptionally good at analyzing the soil (with nothing but his five senses), Adamsberg enlists his help in This Night's Foul Work, to investigate profaned graves. In a way, Danglard is an inversion : although he is a policeman, the vast expanse of knowledge he has accumulated in other fields (especially literature and history) is sometimes essential in solving the cases.
  • In the Mediochre Q Seth Series, Mediochre and Joseph are university professors and researchers in the fields of dracology and zontanecrology respectively. Both, however, use their talents as 'slayer-catchers' on the side, tracking down people who kill dragons or undead.
  • Simon Ark claims he gains a lot of his investigative talent from his time as Coptic priest.
  • Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S., M.D., M.D.S., a.k.a. 'The Thinking Machine' is a logician, mathematician, physician, and has qualifications in multiple other fields. However, none of his qualifications are in criminology. He solves crimes by the rigorous application of logic.
  • In The Crowner John Mysteries, Sir John is a knight and returned Crusader. His two sidekicks are a foot soldier turned bodyguard, and a defrocked monk turned clerk. All three of them possess useful skills in solving crimes.

    Live Action TV  

  • Much of the cast of Bones. Brennan and Hodgins are both academics by training; Angela is an artist.
  • Charlie Eppes of NUMB3RS solves crimes with mathematics.
  • Rick Castle of Castle (2009) solves crimes with Genre Savvy, being a mystery writer.
  • Cal Lightman in Lie to Me solves crimes with body language psychology.
  • Shawn Spencer in Psych doesn't really qualify, but his partner Gus's day job as a pharmaceutical rep occasionally helps solve the Mystery of the Week.
  • Dr. Sloan of Diagnosis: Murder uses his medical knowledge to solve crimes.
  • Jonathan Creek, an excellent inventor of magic tricks (and a competent stage magician in his own right, though he prefers to work behind the scenes) who uses his knowledge of sleight-of-hand and human nature to unpick Locked Room Mysteries.
  • The Magician. Anthony Blake (Bill Bixby) uses his stage magician skills to solve crimes and help people.
  • Andy Barker, PI: divides his time between Murder Mysteries, his wife, and his main job: Certified Public Accountant.
  • On The X-Files, Scully started out as a medical student/doctor before she switched tracks to the FBI. Fanon has Mulder starting out as a psychologist before a similar career shift, which isn't a huge leap since he's a behavioral profiler and studied psychology in Oxford. It's just that the paranormal elements of most of their cases overshadows this skill.
  • Leverage and White Collar both feature thieves that use their skills to solve crimes. However the crew of Leverage generally commits crimes in the process while Neal is a consultant for the FBI. Also the villains of Leverage usually are in a position where normal law enforcement is unable to help.
  • In NCIS, only DiNozzo and Kate are from a law-enforcement background, him a cop, her a Secret Service agent. Gibbs is a former Marine sniper,note  McGee's got degrees in computer science from MIT and biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins...and Ziva's an ex-Mossad assassin. Their respective backgrounds come up more often than you'd think.


  • Malevolent; Prior to becoming a Private Investigator (and long before the start of the story proper), our protagonist Arthur Lester was approached to use his music expertise to help solve a case. He evidently must have enjoyed solving the case, as it seems he decided to become a professional PI afterwards.

    Video Games  

  • The basic premise of Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent and its sequel is that the title character is the sole member of the FBI's Puzzle Division. While this sounds silly in principle, the game manages to make it at least partly justified for several reasons: firstly, because although solving puzzles is seldom integral to detective work, the same kind of analytical approach to problems is useful in some types of crime; secondly, the game works on the basis that the FBI is a Vast Bureaucracy and has a department for everything, just in case (one of Nelson's colleagues works in the department of Vegetable Crimes). Further, the plot centers around a town in which strange events have affected the minds of the citizens, making them obsessed with puzzles.

    Web Original  

  • In the browser game Sleuth, you play a Private Detective, and you have the option of choosing a preset background for them. Some of the backgrounds (for example a doctor whose medical license was revoked by political enemies) aren't strictly law enforcement or detective types.

    Real Life  

  • The FBI generally recruits people with skills outside law enforcement and trains them as opposed to taking trained former local officers.