Kiddie Pulp, Part II
Portrait of the Detective as a Young Sleuth


Perhaps realizing how popular mysteries are with young readers, a few P.I. writers have jumped on the bandwagon with stories of their grown-up detectives making their way through the world as children and young adults.

Not sure yet if it's a trend, but it's worth keeping an eye on...

  • Chasing the Bear (2009)....Buy this book...Kindle it!
    Featuring Spenser
    Written by Robert B. Parker
    Ages 12 and up
    Parker, who'd already written a few YA novels by this point, dished up this one about a youngSpenser, who as an adult spills the beans about his childhood to Susan. Not everyone was in love with the framing sequence, but the meat of the book is an engaging riff on high school honour, autonomy, friendship and doing the right thing. "If it's not worth fighting about, then it's not worth a lot of mouth."

  • Shelter (2011). Buy this book....Kindle it!
    Seconds Away (2012). Buy this book....Kindle it!
    Featuring Mickey Bolitar and Myron Bolitar
    Written by Harlan Coben
    Ages 12 and up

    Not quite Myron as a kid, this series focusses instead on his high school-age nephew and would-be amateur sleuth Mickey, first introduced in the Myron novel
    Live Wire (2011). In Shelter, the first book in the series, Mickey goes to live with his uncle after his father's death, and must contend with his mother's drug problems, a new high school,a new living arrangement, and a missing girlfriend.

  • The Great Cake Mystery (2012). Buy this book....Kindle it!
    Precious Ramotswe
    Written by Alexander McCall Smith and illustrated by Iian McIntosh
    Ages 7-10
    Billed as "Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case" and sub-titled "A Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book for Young Readers," this beautifully illustrated book seems to be the first in a new series. In it, Precious must crack the case of who stole the yummies from her classroom.


Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith.

Got a comment on this site? Drop me a line, and we'll talk.
"And I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk."

Public Broadcast, Private Eyes
Private Detectives from PBS' Mystery!

Lord knows, the American public broadcasting network PBS's flagship crime anthology series MYSTERY! isn't exactly known for its tough, gritty fare.

Nope, it's been mostly aimed at American Anglophiles of a certain class, and as such lt's been largely cozies featuring assorted Lord Muckymucks, Inspector Flacid Chin-Jones and countless plucky amateur sleuths. And lots of quaint villages and tea served in fine china.

But every noew and then, a private detective did slip in...

  • The Racing Game
    (1980-81, PBS)
    Featuring Sid Halley
    Based on
    Odds Against by Dick Francis
    Six episodes

    Aired during the first two seasons of MYSTERY!, these six episodes revolved around former champion steeplechase jockey Halley and his struggle to reinvent himself as a racetrack investigator after a career-ending injury. Alternately dark, gritty, occasionally surprisingly nasty but always compelling, it seemed like a sign of things to come.

  • Partners in Crime
    (1984-87, PBS)
    Featuring Tommy and Tuppence Beresford
    Based on the novel and stories by Agatha Christie
    Ten episodes
    A handsomely mounted but essentially fluffy period piece featuring a husband-and-wife team of "professional" investigators who look into crimes among the wealthy and elite of 1920s society. About as gritty as blanche mange.

  • Sherlock Holmes
    (aka "The Sherlock Holmes Mysteries")

    (1985-93, PBS)
    Featuring Sherlock Holmes
    Based on the novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    Countless episodes
    For many, Jeremy Brett IS Sherlock Holmes. Me? I found this perennial PBS favourite too studied, too mannered, and, particularly as the series progressed, far too impressed with itself, which lead to too much scenery chewing and dubious method acting.

  • Chandler & Co.
    (1996, PBS)
    Featuring Dee Chandler Tate & Elly Chandler
    Created by Paula Milne

    Four episodes

    Two middle-aged women, one recently divorced and one happily married but bored, decide to open a detective agency specializing in personal and marital cases. There's a certain brooding darkness to their cases, and the emphasis on the emotional damage caused by "loved" ones add a welcome edge to what could have simply been a fluffy 90s-style feminist rant.
  • Die Kinder
    (1990, PBS)
    Featuring Lomax
    Created by Paula Milne

    Six episodes
    Perhaps the noirest thing MYSTERY! ever aired, this six-parter followed the exploits of burned out ex-pat American private eye as he tries to track down the children of a London woman whose husband has taken them back to his home in Hamburg, Germany, where he once had links to a terrorist group.

  • Agatha Christie's Poirot
    (1990--, PBS)
    Featuring Hercule Poirot
    Based on the novels and short stories by Agatha Christie
    Countless episodes
    Starring David Suchet in a career-defining star turn as Christie's persnickety, fussy Belgian private detective. Hard-boiled? Get real. But often quite fun to watch...

  • Hetty Wainthropp Investigates
    (1997-99, PBS)

    Featuring Hercule Poirot
    Based on the novel
    Missing Persons by David Cook
    Twenty-eight episodes
    This old dick is a Jane. It didn't run on all PBS sewries, but it was picked up by many of them in the late nineties. Clever mysteries, hampered at times by a little too much schtick.

  • Sherlock
    (2011-12, PBS)
    Featuring Sherlock Holmes
    Based on the novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    Six episodes
    Cheeky, whip-smart adaptations of the canon, far more true in spirit and timbre than the recent ADD-approved Robert Downey Jr. trainwrecks. And a lot more fun than the often overly fussy productions and carpet chewing of the Jeremy Brett series.

  • Case Histories
    (2011, BBC)

    Featuring Jackson Brodie
    Based on the novels by Kate Atkinson
    Six episodes
    Smart, defiantly literate and often surprisingly touching, Everyman private eye Brodie had empathy to spare for all the walking wounded who crossed his path. Compelling.

Honorable Mention (for Wit and Grit)

Of course, PBS didn't always get it wrong. Although Rumpole was a criminal defense lawyer, Jane Tennyson was a cop and poor Philip Marlow was a delusional, bed-ridden P.I. writer whose story played out on Masterpiece Theatre, not MYSTERY!, these three shows should appeal to any fan of this site.

Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Please let me know who I've missed...

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