Who says detective work is a job for single people or divorced people, or that family life and solving murders are incompatible with each other? Some things are better done with two people, and tracking down a killer is one of those things. Additionally, a bit of romance can add an extra layer of drama to the long process of finding clues and interviewing suspects. Say “I do” to some crime-fighting couples who’ve graced the pages of mystery novels down through the decades. We’ve introduced some of the classics.
“Nick and Nora” has become shorthand for many crime-fighting couples who go out in search of clues, while trading quips in the process. Dashiel Hammett introduced Nick and Nora in 1935’s The Thin Man; Nick is an army veteran, a former private detective, and the son of Greek immigrants, while Nora comes from a society background. But they share quite a few things: a love of drinking, a razor-sharp wit, and a pet Schnauzer named Asta.
Tommy Beresford and Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley find themselves at loose ends and in need of a job at the end of World War I, and in finding their new vocation—private sleuthing through The Young Adventurers—they find love as well. Agatha Christie wrote five novels starring this detective pair, starting with The Secret Adversary in 1922 and finishing with Postern of Fate in 1973, by which time Tommy and Tuppence were an old married couple with three grown children.
British author Lindsey Davis introduced the world to Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina in 1989’s The Silver Pigs. The two are an ancient Roman odd couple: He is a plebian from a rough-and-tumble neighborhood, scratching out a living as a private “informer” and taking on the occasional assignment for the Roman emperors. She is the keen and sensible daughter of a prominent senator. And over the course of twenty books, they make it work: both the starting of a family together, and the solving of murders (which the Roman Empire supplies in abundance). The couple’s adopted daughter, Flavia Albia, became an informer in her own right and got her own series of books, starting with 2013’s The Ides of April.
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes: Arthur Conan Doyle was notably circumspect about Sherlock Holmes’s personal life; in the Holmes stories, romance was simply an event that occurred to other people. But starting with 1994’s The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie R. King presented the great detective with an unexpected partner, both in sleuthing and in life: California-born scholar and sleuth Mary Russell. The couple got to know each other in 1915 when Russell, absorbed in a book, quite literally walked into Holmes as he was reclining in a field. To date, King has authored seventeen novels and eleven short stories, following the couple from the World War I era into the changing world of the 1920s
Lord Peter Wimsey—second son of the Fifteenth Duke of Denver, army major during World War I, and all-around man of culture—made his debut in Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers in 1923. Harriet Vane, a well-educated and sensible writer of mystery novels, made her debut some years later, in 1930’s Strong Poison. In that novel, Wimsey proved that Vane was innocent of the murder of her former boyfriend, and ended up falling in love with Vane in the process. But it would be a few more years and a few more novels before Vane finally accepted Wimsey’s repeated marriage proposals in 1935’s Gaudy Night.
Faye Kellerman introduced Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus in The Ritual Bath in 1987, and the couple has been navigating the currents of life and solving gruesome murders ever since. In The Ritual Bath, Decker is an LAPD detective investigating a murder involving the Orthodox Jewish community of which Lazarus is a member. The two find themselves learning from each other: Lazarus about detective work, and Decker about the traditions and rituals of orthodox Judaism. Their family is a blended one, with Peter’s daughter Cindy; Rina’s two sons from her first marriage; Peter and Rina’s first child Hannah, and their foster child Gabriel.
Eve Dallas and Roarke: There are odd couples, but a couple in which she’s a detective, and he’s a wealthy businessman who also happens to be one of her prime suspects, is an especially odd one. J.D. Robb’s In Death series is set in the middle of the twenty-first century; Lt. Eve Dallas works for the New York Police and Security Department, while Roarke is the head of the multibillion-dollar Roarke Enterprises. The couple were introduced in 1995’s Naked in Death, which found Dallas investigating the death of a young woman working as a prostitute, and looking at Roarke as one of the suspects.
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Erin Roll is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader. Her favorite genres to read are mystery, science fiction, and fantasy, and her TBR pile is likely to be visible on Google Maps. Before becoming an editor, Erin worked as a journalist and photographer, and she has won far too many awards from the New Jersey Press Association. Erin lives at the top floor of a haunted house in Montclair, NJ. She enjoys reading (of course), writing, hiking, kayaking, music, and video games.