They think, therefore they detect

Ned Bauman comments on the recent choice of Jed Rubenfeld’s THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER by Richard & Judy and wonders what other great thinkers could make excellent sleuths:

The supreme example of this is probably an out-of-print, 1978 novel

called The Case of the Philosopher’s Ring by Randall Collins, in which

Bertrand Russell despatches Sherlock Holmes to find out who has stolen

Wittgenstein’s mind. In the same year, Margaret Doody

published Aristotle Detective. But writers tend to be more popular than

philosophers, perhaps because philosophers don’t get out much

(Gregorio, for example, has to haul his magistrate hero down to Konigsberg,

the town Kant never left). So instead we’ve had murders solved by

Chaucer, Shakespeare, Defoe, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Mark Twain, Poe

again, and even, of all people, Jane Austen and Beatrix Potter.

I’ve always thought Rousseau

was a natural choice for this kind of book. After writing some

unpopular anti-religious tracts in 1762, the philosopher found himself

in exile

for several years, first in Motiers in Switzerland and then in Wootton

in Staffordshire. Both these little towns, like Miss Marple’s St Mary Mead,

could have seen regular poisonings and stabbings, and Rousseau, with

his insight into human wickedness, would have been just the man to

unravel them. But which great thinker could you see as the next

Sherlock Holmes?

Benjamin Franklin’s already received a vote, but the one that had me clutching my gut was this: “I’d love to see none other than Christopher Hitchens in his rumpled

raincoat pulling a Cracker on some poor unsuspecting

Sibling/Muslim/Irish MP after a hearty, liquid lunch.” Dear god, that could be catastrophic in the best possible way…