Murdoch Mysteries inspired by real-life master sleuth

Long before modern forensics were used in investigations, a Canadian master sleuth solved crimes for the OPP. Though he inspired novels and TV's Murdoch Mysteries, many Canadians still don't know about the renowned real-life detective John Wilson Murray.

OPP's John Wilson Murray, Sherlock Holmes inspired TV detective William Murdoch

Murdoch Mysteries' inspiration

11 years ago
Duration 2:46
A look at the life of John Wilson Murray, the real Canadian detective who inspired Murdoch Mysteries

Long before modern forensic techniques were used in investigations, a Canadian master sleuth solved crimes for the OPP. Though he inspired plays, novels and the TV hit Murdoch Mysteries, many Canadians still don't know about the renowned real-life detective.

John Wilson Murray was "the first great detective of the Ontario Provincial Police," author Maureen Jennings told CBC's Deana Sumanac.

After learning about Murray and also being inspired by great literary detectives like Sherlock Holmes, the Birmingham-born, Ontario-raised Jennings sought to create a Canadian hero in the same mould.

"[Murray] had to rely on being shrewd, very observant, hardworking, following things up and I liked that whole idea — that was the Sherlock Holmes model. He just couldn't go to his computer."

The result was a novel series that revolved around a brilliant, unusual and intellectually curious police detective named William Murdoch, working in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century.

The stories eventually became the internationally distributed TV series Murdoch Mysteries — now seen in dozens of countries, from Canada to China, Italy to Iran.

Jennings, who has continued to write novels as well as develop scripts for television, delights at her character's continued success.

"It's amazing and I love the fact that it's Canadian," she said. "I love that people will say to me 'Oh, you mentioned Yonge Street,' or something like that, which is significant to them."