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Private Detective

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"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."
— "The Simple Art of Murder," Raymond Chandler

A seeker character frequently used in Detective Drama.

A professional detective not directly affiliated with a police department in any official sense (although many will have contacts in the department, and it's not uncommon for them to have 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 real life), they usually find themselves knee-deep in murders, robberies and kidnappings by the end of the story. They may be doing this because the Police Are Useless and/or unconcerned about solving the case, meaning our detective is the only person who is actually willing or capable of solving it. However, this is often justified (especially in classical Film Noir) by the detective starting off with a seemingly simple case, such as finding out if a woman's husband is committing adultery or 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 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 Amateur Sleuth (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 Great Detective or the Hardboiled Detective. In Real Life, the Private Detective is often viewed as a Punch-Clock Villain for his or her use of Sinister Surveillance. The fact that they are officially licensed to go on a Stalking Mission to track whoever they are hired to investigate (often for non-criminal activity like adultery) puts them firmly in the camp of Sociopathic Hero, or a Psycho for Hire with no respect for other individuals' privacy, depending on who you ask.

In Real Life, some private investigators may also function as a Bounty Hunter, as the two professions are incredibly similar (although a Bounty Hunter will usually confront the individual they are tracking directly - a Private Investigator typically will not if they can help it). Private investigators are more likely to get hired for skip traces (tracking down bail jumpers, people evading service, people hiding from warrants, and similar parties so that the police and courts can do their thing), and that part of the job is typically nowhere near as exciting and involves lots of social media hunts and public record searches. The rest of their jobs are usually insurance investigations (usually for worker's comp cases, plus the occasional personal injury case when Insurance Fraud or misrepresentation is suspected), as well as the occasional divorce case (typically investigating suspected parental unfitness, adultery, or concealment of assets), or (for investigators who specialize in it) bankruptcy proceedings or due diligence for investors seeking risky investments. Like with skip traces, a lot of these typically involve social media and public records searches, and active tailing or in-person surveillance only occurs when necessary (someone is suspected of fabricating or exaggerating a work-related injury, someone in a divorce is suspected to have a new significant other that they haven't disclosed, a bankruptcy petitioner is suspected of concealing or surreptitiously selling off assets, etc.)

While the comparison with the Amateur Sleuth is common, in many ways the stories work the opposite ways. The Amateur Sleuth, such as Miss Marple, 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 Private Investigator tends to start simple, but as the investigation will unravel an ever more complicated plot, and the ending is rarely tidy. Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot is a common thread. The killer may be unmasked, but larger problems tend to stay unsolved. The Hardboiled Detective is this guy made even tougher.

Vampire Detective Series often feature one as a protagonist, though of the immortal variant; while the Occult Detective uses magic.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Batman, World's Greatest Detective, combines this trope with The Cowl, often presenting Batman as a Badass Normal fighting crime in a world of superpowered heros and villains. His Awesomeness by Analysis is a great part of what makes him part of DC's "Holy Trinity" alongside Superman and Wonder Woman.
  • Batman: Black and White: In "Fortunes", Batman teams up with a private detective named Ashraf Batna. Batna dresses like a stereotypical private eye, but is an immigrant from Algeria who brought his family to America looking for a better life. He tells Batman that Gotham City is only slightly less dangerous than their old home in Algeria, but he sticks with it because there's not much call for a private detective in safer places.
  • After Infinite Crisis, there was a period in the comics where The Riddler became one after a Tap on the Head. He was quite successful and enjoyed still being able to match wits with Batman while the latter could't beat him up anymore, but he eventually fell back into his criminal ways.
  • The Black Cat was this from the 90s to the early 2000s.
  • Heironymous "Hip" Flask is a private eye and anthropomorphic hippo in the Elephantmen comics.
  • From E-Man comes Michael Mauser. Just... don't call him Mickey.
  • Judge Dredd 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.
  • Dwight from Sin City. His career comes to an end once he's wanted for murder, however.
  • In the 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, Dirty Harry type.
  • Ms. Tree: She and her husband owned a private detection firm; she's carried on since his death.
  • Jennifer Mays from The Maze Agency
  • Jessica Jones in Alias, and the Netflix series based on it.
  • Holmes in Watson and Holmes, like his inspiration, is a private investigator in Harlem, New York.
  • In Wonder Woman (1987) Diana befriends and teams up with the rather reckless PI Micah Rains in Boston on occasion.
  • The Private Eye has, of course, the titular P.I. As a near future comic that's also a throwback to the classic tropes it plays with a lot of the classic Private Detective and Noir tropes, set in a future near enough that there are people alive who know what a Zune is but far enough that most people think an ipod is an "old timey" phone.
  • X-Factor (2006): The whole premise is Multiple Man trying to set himself and a few friends up as private detectives, with the complication that Madrox is in entirely the wrong genre to get away with it. And he never learns.

    Fan Works 
  • Half Past Adventure has private detective Cash Daniels, a parody of noir detectives. She seems to mostly have her own adventures which occasionally intersect the main plot.
  • During Avengers of the Ring, Bruce Banner spends some time with Merry and Pippin in Fangorn Forest, and compliments their ability to pick up various minor details about a situation, suggesting that they could make a living as private detectives. By the time the Avengers return to Middle-Earth in Return of the Avengers, Merry and Pippin have become Middle-Earth's first official private detectives, demonstrating their experience when they expose an attempt by the enemy's forces to take control of a new mithril mine in the Shire.
  • In the AU Holly Potter and the Witching World, a Younger and Hipper Albus Dumbledore (in this Alternate Universe an outcast in magical society) works as a private investigator, with Hagrid as his assistant, helping out both Muggles and magicals. Not purely an Occult Detective, since he takes plenty of mundane jobs as well, but he's still a very powerful wizard and is often called in to solve magical crimes and cases.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Two of the most famous roles of Humphrey Bogart form the Trope Codifier for the Hardboiled Detective variant: Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep.
  • A 1975 film, The Black Bird, is a comedy sequel to The Maltese Falcon with George Segal playing Sam Spade, Jr.
  • The Crew (2000): Bobby hires a private detective to look for his long lost daughter. The man is unable to find much information, and tries to convince Bobby not to spend more of his money on an effort that is so unlikely to succeed.
  • Casey Affleck's working class Bostonian character in Gone Baby Gone is an example of a modern PI.
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has fun with all the Film Noir tropes, this one included: Val Kilmer's character 'Gay' Perry Van Shrike is a hard-bitten, tough-talking, gun-slinging Private Detective 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 Lethal Weapon 4, Leo Getz becomes a licensed PI. This garners much comedy for Riggs and Murtaugh.
    Riggs: Excuse me, private investigator? Could you investigate my privates?
  • Ace Ventura: Pet Detective: Bravely finds missing animals!
  • 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, Angel Heart 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 There's Something About Mary 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.
  • Pain & Gain: Ed Du Bois, who got out of retirement, because he liked doing that far more than fishing and golf.
  • Rock Slyde is a Film Noir detective 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 serious tone of voice.
  • Intolerable Cruelty: Gus Petch, the world's least subtle infidelity investigator.
    You want tact, call a tactician! You want ass nailed, call Gus Petch!
  • The Big Lebowski has one show up to tail The Dude which doesn't help solve the massive clusterfuck of a situation The Dude has found himself in. He was hired by Bunny's parents to find her after she ran away from home. He has nothing to do with the kidnapping.
  • Psycho. Marion Crane's employer hires one to track her down after she steals from a client. He ends up meeting her fate.
  • In Chinatown private detective J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) admits that "matrimonial work" is his "metier", but gets drawn into a labyrinth of danger where nothing is what it seems. This is a common problem for this character type.
  • The Long Goodbye (adapted from the novel by Raymond Chandler), is typical of Robert Altman's work in that it serves as a Deconstruction of this genre.
  • Arthur Penn's Night Moves also serves as a Deconstruction of this genre.
  • In Dead Again, Mike Church is a private detective who specializes in tracking down missing people. Then he gets more than he bargained for when he's called on to help a woman who's lost her memory...
  • In Andhadhun, Akash calls Manohar's wife pretending to be a private detective hired by Mr. Sinha and reveals to her that Manohar and Simi are having an affair.
  • Motherless Brooklyn centers around a private detective agency consisting of an aging World War II veteran and his adopted sons, who range from sleazy, to the usual archetype, to normal people just doing work.
  • The Creeps: David Raleigh is the private investigator that Anna hires to find the guy who stole the original Frankenstein manuscript with a false alias. His second job as a video store clerk slows down his investigation, though, and makes Anna doubt his abilities.
  • Vertigo's protagonist, Scottie Ferguson, is a former police detective convinced by an old friend to do one last job for him. Scottie even suggests some other private eyes to help his friend out, but since the friend needs someone he can trust, Scottie is the one tailing people, researching leads, and interrogating people.
  • In Clegg, protagonist Harry Clegg is an ex-policeman turned Private Detective.
  • Sam Morgan, the protagonist of Faceless, is a private investigator hired by Barbara's father to go to Paris and find her after she disappears.
  • Shall We Dance (2004): Devine and Scott are a pair of Nice Guy Bunny-Ears Lawyer investigators who shadow John when his wife worries that he's having an affair.
  • Small Town Crime: Protagonist Mike Kendall, an alcoholic ex-cop trying to get back on the force, starts posing as a (somewhat) hardboiled private detective so he can investigate a young woman's murder. In the film's coda, Mike becomes a PI for real, having discovered a knack for the work.

  • Edgar Allan Poe is generally credited with being the Trope Maker of Private Eye fiction, with his character C. Auguste Dupin.
  • The works of Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon, Red Harvest, etc.) and Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, etc.) in particular are often credited with creating and popularizing the Hardboiled Detective version.
    • With Nick Charles as the more light-hearted version (although not as much as in the movies).
  • Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot is retired from the Belgian police force, emigrated to England during World War I, and became a Private Detective in London.
  • Marshall Sisco, the head of a private investigation firm, is a recurring supporting character in Elmore Leonard's books.
  • Older Than Radio: Sherlock Holmes 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.
  • Joe Sixsmith, a character of crime fiction author Reginald Hill, subverts most of the basic Private Detective 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 Mike Hammer errs on the "tough" side.
  • The titular character of the Joe Copp series, written by Don Pendleton (also the author of The Executioner series), is a private detective who used to be a cop.
  • Mma Precious Ramotswe (in the The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency 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 Moreau Series of books is a down-on-his-luck PI... who just happens to be an 8'-tall humanoid tiger Super-Soldier.
  • The early Shadowrun novel 2XS has a noir-ish private eye story in Shadowrun's infamous Cyberpunk plus magic world.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, Mab's body was modeled after Bogart, and he acts as the company detective.
  • Rex Stout:
    • Nero Wolfe 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.
    • His character Theodolinda "Dol" Bonner was one of the first women in fiction to be a professional private investigator.
  • In the children's mystery series, Trixie Belden, the title character and her bestfriend, Honey, plan on opening the Belden-Wheeler Detective Agency when they're older.
  • Holly Gibney, a recurring character in the works of Stephen King.
  • This is how Harry Dresden makes his living, though he's really an Occult Detective.
    • In Turn Coat he finds himself shadowed by one of his "mundane" colleagues and eventually ends up hiring the man for an important side job himself.
      • By Changes, Harry's occult dealings take so much of his time that he subcontracts out most of the mundane tasks to the aforementioned colleague.
    • He hasn't had much screentime, but Nick Christian, the PI who mentored Harry while Harry was getting his license has appeared in the series.
    • it is also mentioned later in the series that the occult side of Harry's business takes so much time that he outsources most of the mundane PI work to Vince Graver, the PI who was tracking him in Turn Coat, and who impressed Harry with his integrity.
  • The title character of the Garrett, P.I. series is one, but prefers the term "confidential agent" since he often takes jobs not related to investigations such as private negotiations and consultations on the handling of kidnappings. Since he lives in a fantasy world there are technically no such things as detectives and the closest thing are the Watch's secret police.
  • Technically, Moon Cops on the Moon has this with its leads. Neal and Lucy are the employees of Cyberlife, which is a private detective agency but has a position above the regular police similar to the FBI. It has the authority of being actual police but they're contracted detectives to Atlas Security. Barksley makes a backhanded comparison to the Pinkertons when they were working for the US government, which Neal does not take kindly.
  • Helen Walsh in The Mystery Of Mercy Close is one as well as a Defective Detective 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 Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon 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.
  • Kate Shugak is the private detective heroine of an Alaskan mystery series by Dana Stabenow.
  • Joe Lassiter, the protaganist of The Genesis Code, is a private investigator who runs a company that does investigation work for the wealthy and powerful elite.
  • In the Eddie LaCrosse series, the protagonist is a private detective in a Fantasy setting. In the past, he was a straight-up mercenary, but moved away from that work.
  • In the Zachary Nixon Johnson series, the title character is the last private detective on Earth, all the others having been bought out by megacorporations.
  • Eddie Valiant in Gary K. Wolf's Who Censored Roger Rabbit (and its better known movie adaptation Who Framed Roger Rabbit).
  • Scarlett Undercover: Scarlett solves crimes in the town of Las Almas. She's also a teenager, meaning she isn't always taken seriously by adults.
  • The first two solo novels of Carl Hiaasen both feature private investigators as protagonists, though unusually, neither of them started out with the police; Brian Keyes, the hero of Tourist Season, started out as a reporter, but because of a story that he was ashamed of, he quit the paper and became a private eye, while R.J. Decker, the hero of Double Whammy, used to be a photographer but got burnt out from all the crash footage he shot.
  • While Morgan Harding in ATL Stories From The Retrofuture is decidedly an Amateur Sleuth, Morgan's older sister Marge Eisenhower is a tried and true private detective. She's even got the suit and tie, trenchoat and fedora style going on. Even when she's not investigating anything...
  • The Cormoran Strike Novels are about the adventures of a hard-boiled private detective named Cormoran Strike and his Hypercompetent Sidekick assistant, Robin.
  • The protagonist of Magic for Liars takes pride in introducing herself as "Ivy Gamble, PI". Most of her cases are adulterers; this story about a murder investigation is her big break.
  • Burke starts off this way in the first novel Flood, but as he's an ex-con he can't get a private investigator's license anyway, and this is downplayed in later novels where he's more of a Vigilante Man.
  • In the Miles Bredon series by Ronald Knox, Miles is employed as a detective by an insurance company, usually in cases where substantial life insurance policies are involved. It means he's not necessarily asking the same questions the police would — if the victim was murdered, it's not so important who did the deed, but it would be very important whether it was before or after their policy expired.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 True Companions are better at fighting demons, and sometimes have to hire a real PI when actual investigating is required.
  • Humorously 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, 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 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: John Cassavetes' piano player turned "jazz detective" Johnny Staccato, in the eponymous 1959 show .
  • Moonlight (2007)'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. Given that he turned out to be the killer, it may also have been Gibbs' famous gut instinct telling him something.
  • Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files is a straight example. He's an ex-con (albeit innocent of the charges and officially pardoned). He also edges the Affectionate Parody line.
  • Magnum, P.I. is about one of those: from his contacts in the police to the monologuing, it all fits.
  • Keith Mars (former cop) and Vinnie Van Lowe (stereotypical sleazeball) of Veronica Mars.
  • In one episode of Married... with Children Al Bundy dreams that he is a noir-style private eye.
  • Shotaro Hidari of Kamen Rider Double is a Private Detective. 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.
  • Simon & Simon: Rick and AJ Simon, brother PIs.
  • Emerson Cod from Pushing Daisies. 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.
  • Gossip Girl'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 Burn Notice 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 (Tony Shalhoub) of Monk used to be police detective, but after his wife's murder he resigned and became a private detective that helps the police.
  • The French Nestor Burma (Guy Marchand), famous for his Inner Monologue Conversations, his womanizing and playing Jazz instruments.
  • The title of Psych refers to the name of the "private, psychic detective agency" main characters Shawn and Gus run. They often get hired as offical police consultants as well, however.
  • Nick Slaughter in Tropical Heat is one.
  • Jessica Jones in the Netflix series named after her, is a superheroine turned this.
  • F. I. G. "Fig" Newton in Rumpole of the Bailey. A relatively realistic example: Rumpole (and, it seems, other criminal-defence barristers) employ Fig to find out details of a case that might be relevant to a client's defence in court, especially if Rumpole suspects that his client is the victim of mistaken identity, sloppy policework, or a frame-up. Also realistically, Fig also takes other clients, usually of the "is-my-spouse-cheating-on-me" variety.
  • Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation likes to roleplay on the holodeck as a private eye named Dixon Hill.
  • Trent Malloy of Walker, Texas Ranger is this, wanting a profession that involved helping people after his honorable discharge from the army to mourn the recent death of his father, Thunder Malloy. Along with opening a karate school named after his father, Trent opted for this profession instead of becoming the new pastor of the church his father started and joining a law enforcement agency after an incident with a gun as a child, since in most law enforcement agencies, learning how to handle firearms is mandated.

  • "Private Investigations" by Dire Straits.
  • The main character of GeminEye by The Megas, though his client turns out to be his own split personality.

  • Arthur Lester from Malevolent, at least until he opened a mysterious tome and ended up possessed by a strange entity that now controls his eyes.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In a homage to classical noir, Dino Attack RPG brought in a Private Detective actually named Bogart when it became clear that an unknown figure was conducting a series of murders.
  • Spirit of '77: Players can create a character using this as a role. The type is meant to evoke ones common to 1970s TV series and exploitation films, such as Shaft or The Rockford Files.
  • In Rocket Age the Wolfgang & Long Detective Agency supplies PIs to the entire solar system. Their detectives can either be assigned cases by the agency or take up their own. However, they only go for major cases.

    Video Games 
  • Ann Flores and Ayane Misuno, the protagonist and deutagonist of ANNO: Mutationem, are both private investigators. They work under their boss, Raymond's, agency, which specializes in investigating and solving supernatural problems. Ann is an Action Girl who does most of the investigating locations, interrogating suspects, and fighting trouble, while Ayane is a Playful Hacker who acts as her support and tech specialist.
  • Ace Harding in Déjà Vu, although the games involve getting yourself out of trouble, and not solving any cases for profit.
  • Lewton, in Discworld Noir, both embodies and parodies this trope, due to the Disc's Theory of Narrative Causality; 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.
  • Danganronpa features two, both holders of the title “Ultimate Detective”, Kyoko Kirigiri and Shuichi Saihara. As they’re locked in killing games with 14 or 15 other people each and have to solve the murders done by their fellow captives in hopes of escaping so they don’t all die for that one person to escape, they tend to be extremely helpful.
  • Carl Faubert in Kona is a private investigator who's been called to Northern Canada by industrialist William Hamilton.
  • Raidou Kuzonoha from Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzonoha Vs King Abaddon is sort of a cross between this and a Ghost Buster.
  • Attention-seeking "Ace Detective" Luke Atmey in Ace Attorney, who is always just a step behind Phantom Thief Mask*DeMasque. 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 Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and Last Window.
  • In BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea, an alternate version of Booker DeWitt is, supposedly, working as a private detective in Rapture. By the time the storyline begins, he seems to be spending more time drinking and gambling than actually investigating crimes.
  • Professor Layton: Professor Hershel Layton is not this, but he's constantly mistaken for one. His daughter Catriel 'Lady' Layton, however, is this.
  • The Player Character from the Dark Parables games is a detective who specializes in solving mysteries related to fairy tales.
  • Fallout 4 has Nick Valentine, a synth who runs Valentine Detective Agency and specialises in finding missing people. He wears the traditional trench coat and fedora combo, smokes like a chimney and speaks like the protagonist of a black and white noir film. This is justified as his personality and memories are copied from the original human Nick, who himself was a Pre-War cop.
  • Scott Shelby in Heavy Rain. Subverted when it turns out he's just posing as one in order to eliminate all the evidence because he is the Origami Killer.
  • Johnny Garland is one in Shadow Hearts: 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.
  • Reality-On-The-Norm has the recurring character Max Griff, who styles himself as a classic Noir private eye and has constant financial problems.
  • Tex Murphy of the eponymous series of adventure games is a throwback (well, more of an Affectionate Parody) to Raymond Chandler's detective novels, although the events of the games take place in an After the End Crapsack World. The game justified the Always Night setting by the post-World War III US government reversing the day/night hours, so that people are active during the night (when there's less radiation due to the damage to the ozone layer) and asleep during the day.
  • The title character of Detective Pikachu is basically a Pikachu from Pokémon who speaks human language with a gruff, deep voice and wears a detective cap.
  • Judgment has Takayuki Yagami, a former defense attorney whose promising career was torpedoed when a client he got acquitted was arrested again and convicted of murder. With his reputation in shambles, he takes to private detective work to make ends meet. His background in law, combined with the freedom his new profession affords him, makes him very well suited for getting to the bottom of any mystery.
  • A realistic version crops up in The Secret World in the form of Jake Hama, AKA The Love Hotel Detective. True, Hama likes to seem the part, what with the hard-boiled airs he often puts on, but in reality he's just a drunken sleazeball; his most common line of work involves running surveillance on cheating spouses and blackmailing his targets just to earn extra. By the time you meet him, he's gotten a much more typical request to find Masao Tanaka's daughter, but given that Hama was blackmailing the client, this is almost certainly a Uriah Gambit on Tanaka's part.
  • Detective Grimoire is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • The player character and (in the third game) her partner are both this, separately and together, in the Enigmatis trilogy.
  • C. Auguste Dupin and his player character friend are basically this in the Dark Tales series, overlapping with Gentleman Detective and Great Detective.
  • One can argue that Geralt becomes this in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt when he gets hired by the Emperor of Nilfgaard to find his daughter Ciri, leading Geralt to investigating and finding clues about her current whereabout all over the continent.
  • Shadows of Doubt places the player in the role of one, who can perform odd jobs for people or companies, or take on the case of the current Serial Killer.
  • The titular Master Detectives in Master Detective Archives: Rain Code are all private investigators, who are not very good at investigating.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • 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 disillusioned by the corruption in the system, a freelance reporter, a retired lawyer, or a reformed burglar, among others. Naturally, which background you pick affects which skills you begin with and how you approach the game.
  • Rex Rivetter: Private Eye is a Detective Drama. Part homage/part tongue-in-cheek send-up of the old radio shows, he's got contacts in the department and utters lines like "If I get out of this alive, remind me to have a talk with the voice in my head", and "I may not be able to bring light to man, but I can take away some of the darkness" in his Private Eye Monologue. He has a sarcastic wit, and ability to take and dish out a punch or two and often finds himself in over his head, as things spiral out of control.
  • Decoder Ring Theatre's Black Jack Justice is played straight, although there are two detectives, one male (Jack Justice) and one female (Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective), who take turns providing monologue.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Private Investigator


Martin Morning, PI

Martin wakes up as a stereotypical private detective with a fedora and trenchcoat.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / PrivateDetective

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