A hotel detective is engaged by a hotel to monitor the security of the hotel and investigate issues such as rule violations that may impact the security of the establishment and its guests, staff, etc. When it comes to actual crimes, most modern hotels have a policy to immediately hand over such cases to law enforcement agencies rather then try to investigate it themselves.
A hotel detective is not the same thing as the standard security guards employed by the hotel. While security guards typically wear uniforms and/or name tags that clearly identify them as hotel security, the hotel detective is likely to work in plain clothes and or under the guise of carrying out some other task in the hotel, e.g. wearing a cleaner’s uniform and performing cleaning tasks.
Hotel detectives in fiction
Hotel detectives feature prominently in many works of fiction, especially within the genre noir detective novels. There is for instance the short-story “I’ll Be Waiting” by famous novelist Raymond Chandler, where we get to follow a hotel detective (“house dick”) named Tony Reseck who works for the Windermere Hotel. In this story, the hotel guest Eve Cressy attracts the attention of Reseck by not leaving her room for five consecutive days.
In fiction, hotel detectives are often retired or even fired police officers. There are plenty of exceptions though, such as Alan Russell’s novels about Am Caufield, where the hero is a surfer-turned hotel detective working at La Jolla’s California Hotel. A lot of bad things happens at this hotel, including the poisoning of Dr. Thomas Kingsbury, the murder of Mrs. Smoltz and the death of contractor Tim Kelly.
In “The Chinese Orange Mystery” by (the pseudonym) Ellery Queen, the hotel detective Mr Brummer doesn’t actually solve the case, but he gets involved and the story contains an interesting portrait of his job at the Chancellor Hotel. The novel, written back in 1934, is generally regarded as one of the foremost locked room mystery novels of all time. It is also unusual by being one of the few murder mysteries in which the murdered person’s name is never mentioned.