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To be a real policeman

Be big and strong by heck

But let the strength be always found

Just above the neck.
Courtesy is the Best Policy, a tribute to the Newfoundland Ranger Force

This character is an expert, trained in some field where crime-fighting is not a usual goal. They however use this expertise to catch criminals, probably alongside a more conventional Detective Drama hero (i.e., a police officer or private investigator).

A subtrope of Amateur Sleuth. Compare Superhero and The Exotic Detective. Contrast Mundane Utility. See also Mystery Fiction.

Examples of Interdisciplinary Sleuth include:

Comic Books

  • During her time with The Fantastic Four, She Hulk investigated a photographer who was taking pics of her sunbathing on the Baxter Building by helicopter. At one point she commented, "Well, I'm a lawyer, which makes me 25% detective."


  • Father Brown; the title character uses his priestly knowledge of human evil—acquired mainly from hearing confessions—to help him solve crimes.
  • Brother Cadfael is a monk and apothecary.
  • In at least one of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, "The Bone of Contention," Lord Peter's hobby of bibliophily helps him gather evidence.
  • Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files is a wizard -- mixes up magic potions, summons demons, makes deals with faeries -- in a setting where most people don't believe magic is real; he works as a freelance consultant for, among other things, the police, on cases with an occult or supernatural element.
  • Surviving the Applewhites has an In-Universe example --Debbie Applewhite writes a series of books about a florist who solves mysteries.
  • Sano Ichiro, an honorable Samurai who happens to be very good at solving mysteries.

Live Action TV

  • Much of the cast of Bones. Brennan and Hodgins are both academics by training; Angela is an artist.
  • Charlie Eppes of Numb3rs solves crimes with mathematics.
    • This at least is far more plausible then some variations of this trope. The Real Life FBI probably uses mathematicians too.
  • Rick Castle of Castle solves crimes with Genre Savvy, being a mystery writer.
  • Cal Lightman in Lie to Me solves crimes with body language psychology.
  • Patrick Jane in The Mentalist.
  • Shawn Spencer in Psych doesn't really qualify, but his partner Gus's day job as a pharmaceutical rep occasionally helps solve the Mystery of the Week.
  • Dr. Sloan of Diagnosis Murder uses his medical knowledge to solve crimes.
  • Jonathan Creek, an excellent inventor of magic tricks and an excellent detective.
  • The Magician. Anthony Blake (Bill Bixby) uses his stage magician skills to solve crimes and help people.
  • Andy Barker, PI: divides his time between Murder Mysteries, his wife, and his main job: Certified Public Accountant.
  • On The X-Files, Scully started out as a doctor before she switched tracks to the FBI. Fanon has Mulder starting out as a psychologist before a similar career shift.
  • Leverage and White Collar both feature thieves that use their skills to solve crimes. However the crew of Leverage generally commits crimes in the process while Neal is a consultant for the FBI. Also the villains of Leverage usually are in a position where normaml law enforcement is unable to help.
  • In NCIS, only DiNozzo and Kate are from a law-enforcement background, him a cop, her a Secret Service agent. Gibbs is a former Marine sniper,[1] McGee's got degrees in computer science from MIT and biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins...and Ziva's an ex-Mossad assassin. Their respective backgrounds come up more often than you'd think.

Web Original

  • In the browser game Sleuth, you play a Private Detective, and you have the option of choosing a preset background for them. Some of the backgrounds (for example a doctor whose medical license was revoked by political enemies) aren't strictly law enforcement or detective types.

Real Life

  • The FBI generally recruits people with skills outside law enforcement and trains them as opposed to taking trained former local officers.


  1. The USMC is under the Department of the Navy, thus they use the same Criminal Investigative Service.
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