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The Exotic Detective

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"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 OCPD 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:


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed: 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".
  • The manga Kechonpa is about a Gyaru Girl who investigates crimes out of a strong sense of justice and to impress her emotionally distant fiancée, who is a police officer.
  • The eponymous Ron Kamonohashi: Deranged Detective is an eccentric guy who approaches his cases by "conversing" with murder victims to determine how they were killed, and he is able to almost immediately solve the mystery afterwards. When not working on cases, he lazes around in his furniture-free flat that is completely cut off from the outside world (all the window blinds are shut, and the room has no TV nor internet connection).

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • The DC Verse has a lot of these, e.g. 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 Detectives 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 psychic 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.)
    • Spider-Man Noir is a private eye who also happens to be an Alternate Universe Peter Parker, moonlighting as Spider-Man.
  • In The Stone Man Mysteries, the titular character is a demon named Silex, who is trapped in the form of a gargoyle, fused to a church roof. To redeem himself, he runs an investigative service, with the legwork done by a young boy named Craig. The setting is 1930s Scotland.

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

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • D.O.A.: The fella has to solve his own murder! While he's still alive!
  • Pokémon Detective Pikachu
  • Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a type two example. He's portrayed like a standard noir protagonist, but the exoticism comes from his residence in a world populated by Toons— comedy cartoon characters who live as an ethnic minority among flesh-and-blood humans. Many comedic tropes from The Golden Age of Animation serve as both major and minor plot points, contrasting Valiant's otherwise straightforward portrayal.

  • Historical mysteries starring eunuch detectives are a thing.
    • The long-running "John the Lord Chamberlain" series about a top-ranking eunuch in the Byzantine court is the Ur-Example.
    • The 1998 novel Scherzo by Jim Williams features an eccentric man of letters (who may or may not be Voltaire) investigating a murder in Venice with a failed castrato singer as his impromptu sidekick.
    • The Yashim Series by Jason Goodwin about a eunuch in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire in the 1830s-40s.
    • The Tito Amato series by Beverle Graves Myers about a Venetian castrato singer in eighteenth-century Italy.
    • The latest addition to this sub-genre: the Atto Melani books by Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti, about a real-life Italian castrato who served as a diplomat and spy for the King of France in the late seventeenth century. He's actually the Supporting Protagonist, however - the narrator is his dwarf sidekick from Rome.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant, he's a walking skeleton who's hundreds of years old and has Elemental Powers.
  • Judge Dee: A judge in 7th century China, based on the historical Chinese novels (and other cases found in historical Chinese legal texts) that were themselves based on the historical character.
  • 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 the personal Samurai Detective for the shogun in the Edo period of Japan.
  • 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.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden, wizard PI and crazy-awesome badass.
  • Isaac Asimov
    • R. Daneel Olivaw is a robot detective
    • Wendell Urth, an extremely agoraphobic detective who solves cases brought to his attention without ever leaving his home. For added exoticness, the crimes themselves often occurs 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 we mention that she is assisted and supervised by a bishop?
  • Sister Fidelma: 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.
  • The Mara the Brehon series by Corra Harrison has 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, P.I., 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.
    • Parodied in the Father Brown story "The Pursuit of Mr Blue", where the viewpoint character is expecting a Sherlock Homage and doesn't find Father Brown exotic at all:
      Mr Muggleton had read reports and romances about the Great Criminologist, who sits in his library like an intellectual spider, and throws out theoretical filaments of a web as large as the world. He was prepared to be led to the lonely chateau where the expert wore a purple dressing-gown, to the attic where he lived on opium and acrostics, to the vast laboratory or the lonely tower. To his astonishment he was led to the very edge of the crowded beach by the pier to meet a dumpy little clergyman, with a broad hat and a broad grin, who was at that moment hopping about on the sands with a crowd of poor children; and excitedly waving a very little wooden spade.
  • 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.
  • The Leaphorn & 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!
  • 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 & 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.
  • Dirk Gently doesn't so much "solve" cases as bumble around until they solve themselves. It's also implied that he's psychic somehow.
  • Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Still sentient zombie, one of his first post-life cases was solving his own murder.
  • Sid from the Family Skeleton Mysteries series. He's the titular skeleton, with no memory of his pre-death life, but he and best friend Georgia, a live English professor, make a very good detective team.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Monk: A private detective with OCD (as in, on the few occasions that he tries to seek treatment for it, he completely loses his detecting mojo... and it's a Running Gag he drives everybody nuts with his nitpicking).
  • Ironside (1967): A detective in a wheelchair.
  • Life (2007): The main character, Charlie Crews, went to jail for murder, but was recently acquitted. He's also a millionaire from the wrongful imprisonment settlement. And he's developed a very Zen (or at least Zen-ish) mindset during his time in prison.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: There is definitely something different about Detective Goren. That something being, probably, either a mental problem that should be treated, or being somewhere on the autism spectrum. 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.
  • 21 Jump Street has a squad of baby-faced detectives who go undercover as teenagers in high schools and colleges.
  • 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.
  • For that matter, there's a whole sub-genre of Vampire Detective Series. Probably the best known is Forever Knight.
  • 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.
  • House: Gregory House, arguably a "medical detective". An expy of Sherlock Holmes with all of the intelligence, even more asshole-ery, and a knack for weird cases.
  • 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 Shapeshifter 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 Burke's 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.

  • Detective Professor Nathan Adler in David Bowie's Rock Opera 1. Outside is a hybrid of a detective and an art critic. In the 20 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.

  • 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.
  • Lampshaded in John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, wherein a TV studio runs out of exotic detectives to make shows about and settles on a store detective, trying to stop shoplifters in a grocery.

    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.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies gives us detective Bobby Fulbright, a hilariously hot-blooded detective with a burning passion for all that is just. Oh, and he's also been dead for a year and been replaced by an emotionally stunted super spy.
  • 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.
  • Fallout 4 has Nick Valentine, the private detective of Diamond City, who is noticeably an older model Synth in a society where Synths are feared; it's a testament to how good he is that most of the residents of the town actually think well of him. He also has the memories of a real pre-war detective named Nick Valentine, which later leads to a personal quest for him finding out what happened to one of the original Valentine's old rivals.
  • The eponymous protagonist of Detective Pikachu is a Pikachu who is capable of communicating with his human partner, Tim Goodman, as though he can speak like a human. Since Tim is the only one who can understand Pikachu, the two team up to solve mysteries, with Tim talking with humans and Pikachu with other Pokémon.
  • The protagonist of Subsurface Circular is a robot detective whose work consists mainly of talking to other robots and figuring out the picture from there. All without actually leaving the subway car that it's restricted to.
  • Connor of Detroit: Become Human is a prototype RK-800 Android, built to assist the DCPD with cases involving Deviants- Androids rebelling against their programming and becoming more human.

    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.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Exotic Detective