The Unhappy Lives of Crime Fiction Wives

The Unhappy Lives of Crime Fiction Wives

Posted on November 23 by Jack Batten
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Eleanor Wish got gunned down in Hong Kong.

Eleanor was the ex-wife of Harry Bosch, the LAPD detective at the centre of Michael Connelly’s absorbing series of crime novels, and though her murder was hardly the typical fate of the wives and girlfriends of homicide detectives and private eyes in crime fiction, it’s still true that many women, maybe most, who hook up with sleuth figures don’t find especially happy endings in their relationships.

The wives of both Ian Rankin’s ace Edinburgh copper John Rebus and Peter Robinson’s thoughtful Yorkshire Inspector Peter Banks staggered into divorces that left all parties miserable. Another Yorkshire cop’s wife, Ellie Pascoe, married to Peter from Reginald Hill’s smart and wickedly funny team of Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe, hasn’t split from her husband, but she seems in a constant snit over her relationship with him. This is an emotional state that too many female partners of men in the crime solving business seem inevitably to deal with.

Susan Silverman is somewhat different. She’s the long-time inamorata of Spenser, the Boston PI in the series by Robert B. Parker, and her setup with Spence appears ideal; she maintains her own career as a psychiatrist and a lecturer at Harvard, still keeping herself and her man in an enduring state of passion over one another.

And yet, satisfying as Silverman’s arrangement seems, her own laudable career gives off a sense of stasis. She never has a particular success to crow over, nothing that makes her equal to her partner Spenser in the matter of exploring new areas in her range of accomplishments.  

That, if I may say so, is not the case with Annie B. Cooke, the woman in the life of Crang, the guy I write about in a series of crime novels, now up to seven books. When the Crang series began, Annie was the movie reviewer for Metro Morning, the CBC radio show, and in addition, she took a variety of freelance writing gigs, mostly focused on movies. Annie had ambition, and as the series moved along, she concentrated on the print side of her career, writing newspaper features and magazine articles. By the sixth novel in the series, Keeper of the Flame, she produced her first book, a biography of the gifted movie character actor, Edward Everett Horton. The book was a bestseller in the United States, winning Annie appearances on the TV shows of Ellen DeGeneres and Charlie Rose. Annie was instantly in the bucks and became a far bigger figure in the world at large than Crang.

In Booking In, the new Crang novel, Annie cracks into the financial stratosphere, measured against the earning power of most writers. This piece of lucky happenstance unfolds when the richest woman in Canada, a business entrepreneur named Meg Grantham whose fortune is measured in the billions, hires Annie to ghost write her memoirs. Ms Grantham shells out a hefty fifty grand for Annie to merely consider the job, and the ultimate payment will be in the six figures. Annie sets to work, happy both with the job and with the prospect of entering the big leagues in writer emolument.

Crang’s happy too, relishing Annie’s huge success. Meanwhile, in Booking In, he’s got his hands full, sorting out a case involving a faked rare book manuscript, a couple of thefts, a scam or two, and a shocking murder. In the course of Crang’s sleuthing, he encounters none other than the rich-as-Croesus Meg Grantham, who may be the victim of a scam. But the crimes and the peripheral Grantham connection don’t come close to diminishing Crang’s pride in Annie’s accomplishments as a writer. The ties that link Crang and Annie make them a rare couple in crime fiction, one where the relationship remains solid with plenty of achievements for both parties to share in.  

Jack Batten

Posted by KathrynB on December 6, 2014
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Jack Batten

Jack Batten, after a brief and unhappy career as a lawyer, has been a very happy writer for many years. The author of forty books, Batten has also reviewed jazz for the Globe and Mail, and, for twenty-five years, movies on CBC Radio. He currently writes the biweekly Whodunnit column in the Toronto Star. He lives in Toronto.