Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I kid you not

by Carola Dunn

Last week, I gave a talk at Willamette University in Salem (Oregon), part of a community education series for seniors. One interesting question that came up afterwards was about kids in mysteries.

The woman posing the question had read several of my Daisy Dalrymple mysteries. She really liked Belinda, Daisy's stepdaughter, and wondered why she doesn't appear in more of the books. She said she prefers mysteries with a protagonist who has children. They seem more realistic, the characters more real.

The US hardcover of Fall of a Philanderer is the only cover in which Belinda is shown, in the distant background.

These two covers for Gunpowder Plot (US hardcover and paperback) show respectively:

<--- a bunch of children who have nothing to do with either Daisy or the plot (apart from their mere presence);
and a presage of future half-siblings for Belinda!                             ---->

Out of twenty books in the series, Belinda appears in seven, usually playing quite an important part in the story. Apart from the audience member cited above, and entirely coincidentally, I've just heard from several people on an email list that the best of the Daisy books are the ones with Belinda.

So why didn't I put her in all of them? Why do so many mystery writers avoid giving their protagonists children?

Writers--do you have children in your books?

Readers--do you like mysteries with children?

Let me know what you think and I'll tell you my thoughts next time.



Jaden Terrell said...

My detective, Jared McKean, has an eight-year-old son, Paul, who has Down syndrome. Paul plays what I consider an important role in each book (so far), but he plays no part in solving the mysteries. He's there to show a facet of Jared's character that we would not otherwise see.

Whether I like kids in the mysteries I read depends on how they're handled and what the character as established seems to need. I like watching Cork O'Connor's children grow up in William Kent Kreuger's series. Alafair's presence added an extra layer of Depth to Dave Robicheaux. On the other hand, I've never had any desire to see Jack Reacher married with children.

Jean Henry Mead said...

My 60-year-old protagonist has a journalist daughter who always manages to come to her mother's rescue, if only to help with research. Although she's 25, Kerrie has grown up in the Logan & Cafferty series and I enjoy writing about her relationship with her mother. I hope my readers like them as well.