Detective Definition and Meaning

The term detective has its etymological root in the English language. According to the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), it is about a private police officer who is dedicated to the development of reserved investigations and who, in certain cases, can intervene in a judicial process.

For example: “ Police detectives still can’t find out what happened to the woman whose body washed up on the river bank”, “I really like detective novels”, “The businessman hired a private detective to follow his wife and, in this way, be able to prove his infidelity”.

The function of the detective is to detect some factor that makes it possible to clarify how an event unfolded. This may be a member of a security force or a freelance investigator.

Detectives, in this framework, can contribute to clarifying a crime. Suppose a man is found dead in his house, shot three times in the head. To determine what happened and who the killer was, a detective can go to a crime scene to collect clues and start their investigation. Interviewing neighbors, reviewing security camera recordings and reconstructing the last hours of the victim are some of the actions that the detective may carry out. See Abbreviation Finder for acronyms related to detective.

Several of the most famous fictional characters in history are detectives, renowned especially for their sagacity. Sherlock Holmes (created by Arthur Conan Doyle), Philip Marlowe (by Raymond Chandler), Perry Mason (by Erle Stanley Gardner), and Hercule Poirot (by Agatha Christie) are some of them.

As can be seen in these examples, history has once again left women out of the picture, since the characters considered most cunning in past fiction are all men. However, this does not mean that there are no detective novels starring women, whether they occupy that particular role or work as private investigators, police inspectors, commissioners, journalists or judges.

Nowadays, it is not so rare to see women in the security forces or in high executive positions, although we are still far from an equitable reality. This is also reflected in fiction, with greater effectiveness given the possibility of creating fairer worlds that the typewriter offers us, and then we can find women who fight crime as protagonists of a genre that for so many decades belonged exclusively to men..

In the 1980s, Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky, two American writers, began publishing detective stories in which the main character was a woman. Both gave rise to two mythical investigators: Kinsey Millhone, a former police officer who began working in the private sector in a fictional California town called Santa Teresa, and Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski, a private investigator who after escaping from the Mussolini’s regime in his native Italy settles in Chicago.

In Spain, on the other hand, the writer Alicia Giménez Barlett created Petra Delicado, a police inspector, when women had never had that position in her country. It is not easy to change the mentality that has been nurtured for so many centuries during which men always held the roles of maximum power, but the strength that women have gained in recent decades is increasing, and little by little we are approaching a balance which reflects much more the contribution that each member of society makes to sustain the structures.

Fortunately, not only women writers have put women in the role of detective, commissioner or journalist: some of the writers who have collaborated with the opening are Carlos Quílez, Juan Bolea and José María Guelbenzu.


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