19 June 2009

Detective Pairs, Twosomes

A post over on Crime Scraps Adamsberg and Danglard, reminded me of my own post just over a month ago Sleuths & Foils and my intention to follow up on that.

I am interested in how crime fiction authors complement and contrast their detective duos. The cleverness and intuition of one is often contrasted with the methodical and rule-observing nature of the other.

I've updated my original list with the suggestions people made, and with some additions of my own. [I hasten to say though that they don't all fit the pattern I've described above.]

From Ruth Rendell, Reg Wexford & Mike Burden.
From Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot & Captain Hastings.
Also Tommy & Tuppence, Mr Satterthwaite and Mr Harley Quinn, Superintendent Battle & Bundle Brent.
From Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson
So from Reginald Hill, Andy Dalziel & Peter Pascoe.
From Colin Dexter, Morse & Lewis.
From Kerry Greenwood, Phryne Fisher & Dot,
and from Ian Rankin John Rebus & Siobhan Clarke.
And then from Elizabeth George comes Thomas Lynley & Barbara Havers.
Michael Robotham has created Joe O'Loughlin & Vincent Ruiz.
From Charles Todd Ian Rutledge & "Hamish in his head".
From Martin Edwards, Daniel Kind & Hannah Scarlett
From Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane
From Cara Black, Aimee Leduc & Rene Friant
From E.W. Hornung, A.J. Raffles & Bunny Manders
From Alexander McCall Smith, Mma Ramotswe & Mma Matutsi

The lists could really go on ad nauseam couldn't they? But what really interests me is how the authors use them.
There is often more to it than just contrasting how they think, and what they do with the evidence they have.
In Dalziel & Pascoe, Hill has us thinking about what it is about their working together that makes the difference? Would Peter Pascoe solve the mystery on his own?
In Vargas, Danglard often despairs over what he sees as Adamsber's lack of method, but he would often have come to the wrong conclusion if left to his own devices.
In Agatha Christie, Mr Harley Quinn helps Mr Satterthwaite see what he already knows in a new light.

Sometimes there are parallel investigations going on. The seemingly random wool gathering approach contrasted with the methodical. Which one will get to the answer first? Or is it that the groundwork done by both is needed?

And what is it that adds to the reader's enjoyment of the story? Is it the contrast between the two main characters. Through the contrast do we get to know each character just a little better? Does it flesh their individuality out just a bit better?

There have been books where the author lets one character play without the other. For example Reginald Hill has let Peter Pascoe loose several times by giving Dalziel a heart attack, blowing him up with a bomb and so on. But all the time we sit around waiting for Fat Andy to miraculously revive.
Similarly Elizabeth George brings Havers to the fore by striking Lynley the most fearful blow by killing his wife.
Agatha Christie resorted to marrying Captain Hastings off and sending him to some far flung clime.
Colin Dexter killed Morse off, and Ian Rankin sent Rebus into retirement.

So what do you think? Why have pairs been the fashion?


Uriah Robinson said...

Is it because you can then use the technique of recapping the plot for the 'Watson" ? Or just to contrast the characters? It is interesting that Hammett, Chandler and Ross MacDonald had lone operatives. While Rex Stout alters the Holmes/ Watson twosome with Archie Goodwin and the sedentary Nero Wolfe.

Dorte H said...

Well, a pair is more realistic than a lone wolf, I suppose.

Vanda Symon said...

Great post Kerrie.

Sometimes when you read a book, having a duo, if it's not done well, can seem almost like an artificial device used by the writer. But then there are plenty of writers who do it brilliantly. I've recently finished The Chalk Circle Man and loved the relationship between Adamsberg and Danglard.

From a different perspective, by having a duo the writer gets to keep things fresh for themselves as well as the reader - two interesting characters to create, to have an interesting relationship with, whether symbiotic or grating. Keeps it alive when the writing process is getting tedious.

Kerrie said...

The sounding board, re-capping device, works well in most of these duos too Norman. The author is able to carefully remind the reader of what we know so far.

Your final idea reminded me of Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme/Amelia Sachs duo where he is basically parlysed and she does most of the investigation. Haven't read one of those for a long time.

Kerrie said...

You are right Dorte, a duo is the usual thing, rather than a loner. I am just reading THE REDEEMER though and Harry Hole is a loner isn't he. Who does he share his thoughts with?

Kurt Wallander tries to be a loner I think, and then Mankell added the element of Linda. Although to be fair Wallander had colleagues before that.

Kerrie said...

Thanks for the interesting author perspective Vanda. I guess the secondary character gives the author the chance to poke the protagonist occasionally too, when he/she attempts to get out of line :-)


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