The everlasting detective: When gumshoes return from the grave

in Fiction by

We take fictional deaths hard. From classic literature (we’re still coming to terms with Lennie’s death in Of Mice and Men and Jay Gatsby’s demise in Fitzgerald’s masterpiece) to modern bestsellers (we won’t spoil it for anyone, but X’s death in Mockingjay and Y’s death in Allegiant shook us up), readers mourn for figments of an author’s imagination.

But sometimes dying isn’t the last page of the story. Some heroes are resurrected—to readers’ mixed reception. In several instances, it’s the choice of the author to bring a seemingly dead character back to life (Sherlock Holmes and “The Reichenbach Fall,” anyone?). Other times, the resurrection comes long after the original author’s death.

Putting aside the larger issue of whether the dead should stay buried, BookTrib has compiled a list of fictional detectives whose last case wasn’t the end after all, in honor of the recent publication of Sophie Hannah’s widely praised Agatha Christie reboot, The Monogram Murders. While none of these new takes should dissuade you from reading the originals, fans will be excited to see their favorite sleuths on the prowl again.

Hercule PoirotThe Monogram Murders (William Morrow, 2014) by Sophie Hannah

(based on characters created by Agatha Christie)

Most readers assumed that a book titled Curtain: Hercule Poirot’s Last Case (1975) would indeed signal the end of that fastidious Belgian detective and his little grey cells. And for more than a quarter of a century, Poirot was “alive” only in new reprints of Christie classics and the multiple Masterpiece Theater television adaptations starring David Suchet. When the late author’s estate announced that it had given its blessing for a “new” Poirot tale, reactions were understandably mixed. But Sophie Hannah’s The Monogram Murders, which finds the iconic detective solving a new case in 1920s London, has garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews. Could a Miss Marple reboot be next?

The House of Silk (Mulholland Books, 2011) by Anthony Horowitz

(based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Horowitz’s novel is far from the first to reintroduce the brilliant Sherlock Holmes and the trusty Dr. John Watson, but, like The Monogram Murders, it’s the only one written with the blessing of Conan Doyle’s estate. All the familiar people and places are there, from 221B Baker Street to the amazing deductive mind of Holmes. Purists disagree about where exactly the new novel falls in Conan Doyle’s original timeline, but Silk finds the famous duo embroiled in a case that takes them from London to the seedy underbelly of 19th century Boston. Horowitz’s second installment, Moriarity, is due in December.

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Philip MarloweThe Black-Eyed Blonde (Henry Holt and Co., 2014) by Benjamin Black

(based on characters created by Raymond Chandler)

It’s impossible to match Chandler’s command of noir, but Benjamin Black (the crime fiction pseudonym of Irish author John Banville) makes a worthy attempt in his new take on the life and cases of Chandler’s main man, Los Angeles P.I. Philip Marlowe. As usual, Marlowe is visited by a dame brimming with secrets and lies, and eventually drawn into a complex case where corpses litter the sidewalks like an unexpected California downpour (Black attempts to go toe-to-toe with Chandler in the synonym department and puts up a valiant effort).

 

Urichblackandwhite as SpenserRobert B. Parker’s Lullaby (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012) by Ace Atkins

Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot (Putnam Adult 2014) by Reed Farrell Coleman

(based on characters created by Robert B. Parker)

A household name in the crime fiction community, Parker (1932-2010) created some of the most memorable crime solvers in the genre, particularly Spenser, an ex-boxer and ex-state cop-turned-Boston private eye; and Jesse Stone, a police chief in Paradise, Massachusetts. After Parker’s death in 2010, his long-time agent, Helen Brann, completed 2013’s Silent Night—billed as a Spenser holiday novel—but it was crime writer Ace Atkins who took over the Spenser reins. With three well-received Spenser novels under his belt, Atkins seems like a natural to continue the series. Another well-known name in crime fiction, Reed Farrell Coleman, first took on the Jesse Stone series this year with Blind Spot. He picked up where Michael Brandman (who collaborated with Parker for years on film projects and the Spenser TV movies) left off in 2013 with Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues. Both Stone and Spenser seem set to carry on solving crimes for years to come.

What’s a series you wish would be continued with a new author? Let us know in the comments!

Jordan is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon, after spending six years in NYC for college and graduate school (where she earned her MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia) before realizing that her heart belonged in the Pacific Northwest. She (hopefully) puts that degree to good use writing for BookTrib and Publishers Weekly about the vast quantity of books she reads. While Jordan’s literary diet is largely crime fiction—as she was raised, often literally, in Portland’s only mystery bookstore—she’s perfectly content to read novels and nonfiction that lack a murder because good writing transcends labels. Follow her on Twitter @jordanfoster13.

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