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Alumni Gazette

5 FAVORITESMaster of Mystery Crime-stoppers: Award-winning novelist Thomas Perry ’74 (PhD) on some of his favorite literary detectives. By Jim Mandelaro
perry

Going into his 36th year as a writer and his 26th mystery, Thomas Perry ’74 (PhD) knows a lot about compelling characters. He created the groundbreaking detective Jane Whitefield, a Native American woman with a knack for helping people disappear when they most need to. The Boston Globe calls Perry “the best suspense writer in the business.” His 2018 book, The Bomb Maker, was named one of year’s best thrillers by New York Times reviewer Marilyn Stasio. His newest novel is The Burglar, which Entertainment Weekly calls one of 2019’s “biggest new thrillers.”

Perry picks his five most important crime novel protagonists in history:

Sherlock Holmes, the often-imitated model of deduction created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887. “Holmes is a step forward, because in him the thinker becomes heroic.”

Hercule Poirot is Agatha Christie’s most famous character, appearing in 33 novels and more than 50 short stories between 1920 and 1975. “He’s Christie’s variation on earlier detectives, a foreigner with charming quirks.”

C. Auguste Dupin made his first appearance in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), widely considered the first detective novel. “Dupin is important because he’s the original professional puzzle-solver.”

Philip Marlowe is a hard-drinking private eye created by Raymond Chandler in the novel The Big Sleep (1939). “Marlowe is the American tough guy and inspired thousands of imitators.”

George Smiley is a career British intelligence officer created by John le Carré for his first novel, Call for the Dead (1961). “Smiley has inspired almost everyone who writes suspense today.”