Top Ten Tuesdays: Dynamic Duos in Crime Fiction

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week, which is Dynamic Duos. I’m a day late with my post as at first I thought I’d skip this week and then I realised that I read a lot of books with very dynamic characters in them – the detectives in crime fiction! So here is my list for this week:

First we have Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings, two of Agatha Christie’s most famous private investigators. They’ve worked together on many cases ever since Poirot’s first case, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. A Belgian he came to England in 1914 when Germany invaded his country. He had retired from the Belgian police force in 1904. Captain Hastings narrates the stories and is usually baffled as he assists Poirot in looking at the evidence: until Poirot explains it all to him.

The next duo are a married couple. Tommy and Tuppence, who first appeared in Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary, in which they have just met up after World War One, both in their twenties: ‘an essentially modern-looking couple’. By the end of the book they realise they are in love. My favourite book about them is By the Pricking of My Thumbs. In this they are now elderly, but consider themselves only just past the prime of life, looking for something exciting to happen. And then they found themselves caught up in an unexpected adventure involving possible black magic…

The first Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson mystery is A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle. Watson was on nine months convalescent leave from the army, having been shot in his shoulder whilst in Afghanistan, followed by an attack of enteric fever. He was looking for lodgings when he met a friend who introduced him to an acquaintance who was working in the chemical laboratory at the hospital – Sherlock Holmes, who he described as ‘a little too scientific for my tastes – it approaches to cold-bloodedness. … He appears to have a passion for definite and exact knowledge.’ 

Reginald Hill wrote 25 Dalziel and Pascoe novels. Detective Superintendent Andrew ‘Andy’ Dalziel’s capacity for getting to the bottom of a mystery is shown to be immense. But he is rude, insensitive and not afraid to speak his mind and most definitely politically incorrect in all aspects, whereas Detective Sergeant, later Detective Inspector, Peter Pascoe, university educated, is calm, polite and well mannered. One of my favourites of these books is On Beulah Height. It is a complex book about three little girls who went missing before the little village of Dendale in Yorkshire the valley was flooded to provide a reservoir.

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope and Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth in Ann Cleeves’s Vera Stanhope series have a interesting work relationship. Vera is a truly eccentric individual, intelligent, single minded and dedicated to her job, single and with no family responsibilities. She finds it difficult to delegate and is exhilarated by her job. The interplay between the Vera and Sergeant Joe Ashworth is excellent. Joe isn’t as easily managed as Vera would want him to be and yet she likes that in him. Her relationship with the rest of her team leaves much to be desired, but she is human – and she gets results. The Glass Room, the fifth book in the series and I think it’s one of her best.

Detective Inspector John Rebus and Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke in Ian Rankin’s Rebus series are two very individual characters- he is a loner, a troubled soul, with ghosts in his life – past family and past friends – and he never plays by the book. He is a smoker and a heavy drinker. Siobhan is the opposite of Rebus. She gets infuriated by his reluctance to stick to the rules and is English, from a middle-class left-wing background and she has a university degree. But both are dedicated and obsessed cops, who like working on their own. One I really enjoyed is Set in Darkness is the 11th book in the series, set in Edinburgh when a corpse is discovered in an old fireplace in Queensberry House during the works to build the new Scottish Parliament building and then two more bodies are found.

Chief Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis in Colin Dexter’s Morse series. Morse is clever, loves the opera,  and solving puzzles, particularly crosswords – he can do The Times crossword in under ten minutes. He is not a happy man; he is sensitive, melancholy, a loner and a pedant. Lewis is a Geordie, he left school at fifteen, and is married with two children. He acts as Morse’s sidekick and foil, a counterpart, who does the legwork, drives the car, collars the suspect and buys the drinks. Service of All the Dead is the 4th book in the series and is one of the the most puzzling crime fiction books I’ve read – if not the most puzzling! There are five dead bodies. Lewis uncovers an intricate web of lies and deceit, whilst Morse acts on instinct and proposes several motives for the murders and alternate scenarios of what had happened before untangling the complex mess.

Forensic Archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson – Ruth is not your usual detective, she’s overweight, self-reliant but also feisty and tough. Harry is a gruff Northerner, and an old fashioned policeman who is impatient and quick tempered but also capable of being imaginative and sensitive. Theirs is not just a work relationship but also a personal one – Harry is the father of Ruth’s daughter. The Crossing Places is the first book in the series by Ellie Griffiths, in which the couple first meet. Set in Norfolk it’s an interesting mix of investigations into a cold case – the disappearance of Lucy, a five year old girl ten years earlier and a current case of another missing four year old girl. Are they connected and just how does the discovery of a child’s bones from the Iron Age fit in? 

Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane in Dorothy L Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey books. Wimsey is a war-damaged aristocratic sleuth, whereas Harriet Vane is an Oxford scholar, spurned lover, accused murderess and a wealthy author. The two meet in Strong Poison in which Harriet is on trial for the murder of her former lover, Philip Boyes. Wimsey, attending the trial, is convinced she is innocent and sets out to prove it … and falls in love with her. They subsequently have an ongoing ‘relationship’ in which he annually asks her to marry him and she refuses. Harriet appears in four of the twelve Lord Peter Wimsey novels, my favourite being Gaudy Night, in which she attends the Shrewsbury Gaudy (a college reunion involving a celebratory dinner). She is asked to investigate a series of poison pen letters, nasty graffiti and vandalism. Afraid it will end in murder she asks Wimsey for help.

DCI Hannah Scarlet and Daniel Kind, a historian and the son of Hannah’s former boss, Ben Kind, in Martin Edwards’ Lake District Mystery, series. Hannah is in charge of the Cumbria’s Cold Case Team and Daniel is an Oxford historian. When the series began Hannah was living with bookseller Marc Amos, but during the course of the series she becomes increasingly drawn to Daniel and gradually their relationship develops. I love all the books, maybe The Serpent Pool is my favourite. There’s an apparent suicide in the Pool and a man is burnt to death in an Ullswater boathouse to investigate. It’s a  terrific book. It has everything, a great sense of location, believable, complex characters, a crime to solve, full of tension and well paced to keep you wanting to know more, and so atmospheric.

9 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesdays: Dynamic Duos in Crime Fiction

  1. What a clever idea for TTT, Margaret! And I really like the duos you’ve chosen, especially Poirot/Hastings, Holmes/Watson, and Dalziel/Pascoe. They are iconic duos, in my opinion. Hmm….that’s a really interesting topic! I may do a blog post about it some time – thank for the ‘food for thought!’

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  2. Fab list with many of my own favourite dynamic duos on it – Holmes and Watson, the Christie duos, Dalziel and Pascoe, Rebus and Siobhan! So I’ll forgive you for including the irritating Lord Peter and the even more irritating Harriet Vane… 😉

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  3. This is a great take on the amazing duos list. I totally love all of the partnerships that you have included here, A relatively new one for me would be Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw from the books by M W Craven. They’re another fantastic partnership.


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