When it comes to England’s favorite literary crime character, the answer is “elementary.”
To coincide with the annual Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Kobo this summer did some sleuthing into the crime fiction proclivities of readers in the UK.
First, we surveyed* UK readers to ascertain their favorite characters from classic crime fiction, and, sure enough, the most popular answer was Sherlock Holmes – by a long way. The pipe-smoking detective was voted number one in every age, gender and location, garnering almost a third of the entire vote.
In comparison to the classic characters, contemporary sleuths proved far less popular. Pressed to pick a top character from modern day crime novels, a striking 59% said they didn’t have one. Robert Langdon, from The Da Vinci Code, came out as the most popular character, but garnered just 9% of the vote, while the notorious Amy Dunne from the thriller/crime hit Gone Girl was last with less than 1%.
Simon Brett, former president and active member of The Detection Club, told us: “These findings from Kobo prove that Sherlock Holmes is still the definitive sleuth. Conan Doyle got so much right when he created the character, and Holmes casts a long shadow over all subsequent crime fiction. It is his observation of detail which makes his method of detection so compelling. The information is there in plain sight, and we the readers – not to mention the pedestrian Dr. Watson – should be able to recognize and connect the clues. But often we fail, with the result that the brilliant Holmes has to provide the solution for us.”
When asked what themes they’d like to see addressed in crime novels, artificial intelligence was the single most popular, (with 34%) closely followed by virtual reality (25%). Asked what stories based on contemporary life they’d like to see explored, the real-life events of the Hatton Garden Heist came out on top with 34% of the vote.
As Brett explains, “I have heard it said that, if you want to know the preoccupations of a particular period of the last century, you should read the contemporary crime fiction. The kind of crimes featured in those books reflect the anxieties of the time. So international terrorism – the horror of the atrocity which can strike anyone at any moment – will continue to feature in crime novels of the next five years…. And in a time when almost all of us have been close to having our online banking details accessed by fraudsters – if we haven’t actually been victims – there’s going to be a lot of crime fiction written about the perils of the internet.”
Although characters from the classics still hold the largest place in our hearts, with the younger generation adding new themes such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality, it seems likely a new ‘Sherlock Holmes’ might be just around the corner.
Top 10 bestselling crime novels of all time from Kobo in the UK**
- One Cold Night by Katia Lief
- The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
- Gone Again by Doug Johnstone
- The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
- The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson
- The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
- The Detective’s Daughter by Lesley Thomson
- Never Tell by Alafair Burke
- Taken by Jacqui Rose
*Kobo-commissioned survey of the British Public conducted by Census Wide, with 2,000 respondents.
**Data from a selection of 14,000 users on the Kobo platform.