Fictional Private Investigators: Myth and Reality

Pop culture has a tendency to turn ordinary people and professions into fascinating characters involved in extravagant adventures, all with the goal of creating situations that people will want to read about or watch. Throughout the years, many books, films, and television shows have portrayed private investigators. These portrayals are designed primarily to provide entertainment, usually at the expense of accurately showing what a private investigator does.

Some fictional private eyes, however, do a good job of exemplifying how real-life private investigators can help their clients.

Thomas Magnum (Magnum, P.I.)

Throughout the 1980s, Tom Selleck captivated audiences with his portrayal of television character Thomas Magnum, a private investigator living lavishly in a Hawaiian estate from which he solved a variety of mysteries. While most private investigators don't drive exotic cars and/or solve cases that only seem to involve beautiful women, there is some truth to the work that Magnum does: many of the plotlines in the show involve finding missing people and conducting surveillance on suspected criminals.

John Shaft (Shaft)

First portrayed by Richard Roundtree on the big screen in 1971, John Shaft is a well-known movie private investigator and one of the most famous characters to emerge from the blaxploitation era of the 1970s. Shootouts, squabbles with the police, and rescuing victims of kidnappings are all part of a regular day in the office for Shaft. Part of Shaft's allure is that he doesn't ?play by the rules,? an attribute which often gets him into trouble with local law enforcement. While private investigators in real life do not go out of their way to clash with the police, they do have methods of working for their clients that aren't always accessible to police officers.

Jessica Fletcher (Murder, She Wrote)

British actress Angela Lansbury has enjoyed a long and successful career, but from 1984 to 1996 she was best known for her role as Jessica Fletcher in the American television show Murder, She Wrote. Primarily a novelist, Fletcher spent her spare time investigating criminal cases like a private investigator would. Using logic and poignant questioning, Fletcher is often able to crack mysteries that stump police officers working on the same case, much to their chagrin. You probably won't find any celebrity authors moonlighting as a private detective in real life, but the character of Jessica Fletcher does call attention to one important skill that good private investigators have in the real world: the ability to interview people and question witnesses to uncover the truth.

Sherlock Holmes (Various Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

No list of famous fictional detectives would be complete without the most famous of them all: Sherlock Holmes. A case could be made that the character of Sherlock Holmes, a brilliant 19th century private detective in London, was single-handedly responsible for building the mystique that many people still associate with private investigators. Some of Sherlock's methods would not be acceptable by today's standards; you probably want to avoid hiring a private investigator that uses cocaine, and not every case can be solved purely by logic. However, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes does highlight the effectiveness of private investigative services: thanks to his ability to gather clues and interpret them the right way, Holmes becomes a successful private investigator.

These pop culture detectives may not be real, but each one has a unique way of showing how private investigators can help their clients solve problems and work in ways that police detectives cannot.

If you need a real-life detective, be sure to hire a private investigator with the skills and experience required to solve your case. Contact Linked Investigations or call us at 714-432-9911.

Published on: 
August 1, 2014
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