From C. August Dupin’s needling repartee with the Parisian police in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” to Sherlock Holmes’s insinuating banter with Lestrade, Hercule Poirot’s passive-aggressive one-upmanship with Chief Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard, hard-boiled Sam Spade’s agon with the district attorney in The Maltese Falcon (1930), and Philip Marlowe’s dismissal from the police force for insubordination, detective fiction has always shown the private investigator at odds with official police bureaucracy. It’s one way of dramatizing the messiness of the idea of justice—at once an individual (possibly personal or private) code and at the same time susceptible to a codifying proceduralism (all part of the detective’s “advantage of being unofficial,” as Holmes puts it in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Silver Blaze” [The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1893), New York, 20]). But when the law itself is shown to be tilted...

Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview
You do not currently have access to this content.