It seems ironic to be writing about mysteries on St. Valentine's Day, a celebration of
human love. Of course, in all the images of this day, there are more arrows than halos.
Now if Cupid decided to sharpen the end or the barb, or put poison on the shaft that would make it fit better.
Of course we all know that “love” does die or change. Otherwise there would be no mystery conference called Malice Domestic. Or the oft-repeated remark on TV cop shows and in books: “It's usually someone very close to the victim...”
But romance and love as well as lust have been part of mysteries for decades and perhaps centuries. There is romantic suspense, which I don't classify as mystery...especially if they are produced by a certain publisher.
What about REBECCA? It is a love story, but also a mystery. Did Max DeWinter murder Rebecca and does he still love her rather than the timid second Mrs. DeWinter?
Then there are all those Gothic novels by Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney and others. It may turn into romance, but the atmosphere is one of mystery and danger.
Agatha Christie had no romances for Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, but did have Tommy and Tuppence, a young married couple.
Ngaio Marsh developed a romance between her detective, Roderick Alleyn and Agatha Troy, a painter he meets in one of his cases and later marries and they have a son. So there is a romance, but mystery comes first. Margery Allingham also has Campion fall in love, get married and raise a family.
Then the “greatest” love story in mysterydom, according to many is that presented by Dorothy L. Sayers with aristocratic Lord Peter Wimsey and author, Harriet Vane. They meet when Peter saves Harriet from being found guilty of the murder of her former lover...and it goes from there. Many readers “fell in love” with Peter. Many say that Sayers herself was in love with her creation. Which proves, if you can't find the perfect mate create him or her on paper.
Jill Paton Walsh finished a Wimsey/Vane novel started by Sayers. It proved to be popular enough that she wrote three more mysteries featuring Peter and Harriet.
One of my first mystery series was Mr. and Mrs. North, by Richard and Frances Lockridge which featured not only the ideal married couple, Pam and Jerry, but also a romance between Lt. Weigand and Dorian Hunt, another artist. It would be interesting sometime to figure out how many fictional detectives are married or involved with artists. I do plan on writing more about Pam and Jerry later.
There are other romances and/or love affairs and marriages by other mystery authors as well. Even those “noir” novels have to have something hinting at possible happiness in them. And then there are those rugged heroes who have have a different lover in every book. Travis McGee would have left a trail of broken hearts if he didn't have the power to heal anything else wrong in these women's lives by taking then to his bed,
May everyone have a good Valentine's Day. This old maid (with emphasis on “old”) may just reread GAUDY NIGHT and BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON, if I can find my copies among my “dead author” boxes.
Doris Ann Norris, the 2000-year-old librarian