Thursday, February 13, 2014

Romancing the Mystery

by Jackie King

Mysteries are my first love, but since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, I decided to explore mysteries that have a love interest. Adding a touch of romance is something I do in my own mystery series featuring Grace Cassidy.

In her autobiography, Agatha Christie mentioned that if she added a bit of romance to her novels, the books to sold more copies. Now I think that most mystery fans will agree that writing romance wasn’t the great Dame Agatha’s strong suit. Her surprising plot twists were what caused her books to fly off the shelves. But the famous lady of mystery was an astute business woman; therefore most of her stories have some kind of love interest.
Agatha Christie

Writers have now become adroit at blending a love story with pure mystery. In Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone mysteries, our heroine always seems to have bad luck with men. But when Grafton penned G Is for Gumshoe and added an anti-hero type guy named Robert Deitz, the book sizzled for a few pages.
Sue Grafton
Historical mysteries also feature love. One of my favorite authors, Anne Perry, uses two different hero types. William Monk, brilliant and ambitious, fancies helpless, very ladylike women. Our protagonist, Hester Latterly, who served with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, is a prototype of the early feminist. When these two characters are pierced by Cupid’s arrows, the excitement mounts.

Another of Perry’s popular series features Thomas Pitt, a poorly paid policeman who weds Charlotte Ellison, the daughter of a well-to-do family. The union is definitely a no-no in the class-conscious Victorian setting. The marriage and the complications that arise from it, make Perry’s plots deep and believable.
Anne Perry
Anne Perry
Even hardboiled mysteries feature strong love stories. The Elvis Cole series, written by the grand master Robert Crais, is a perfect example. Elvis’ love match with Lucy Chenier is enough to melt your teeth. And even though the two have parted for the safety of Lucy’s young son, her memory still lingers with Elvis and adds an extra dimension to Crais’ books.
Robert Crais
Robert Crais

Joe Pike, that hour-and-a-half hardboiled egg and my personal favorite hero (also created by Crais) is not immune to love. When he falls, he falls hard.

This list could go on and on, and I haven’t even mentioned the popular romantic suspense novels. So on Valentine’s Day Eve, I’m going to go wild and say that adding romance to mystery just makes the story that much richer and more fulfilling.

If you have a favorite mystery that also features romance, I’d like to know about it. I will also love any comment you care to make, favorable or not.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Great article and I couldn't agree with you more, Jackie. A little romance adds another dimension to the plot, but I don't think explicit sex scenes should be included in a mystery novel.

Jackie King said...

Hi Jean, Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you on explicit sex scenes--sex is NOT a spectator sport. :-)