That great social comedian Bill James takes the theme several steps further, weaving families throughout his Harpur & Iles series. He explores the idea in particular detail starting with the tenth novel, Roses, Roses, built around the murder of Detective Chief Inspector Colin Harpur's wife. Even when spouses don't die, marriage, betrayal thereof and substitutes therefor are constants in almost all the books. Harpur becomes a loving, earnest single father to his wise, impudent and hilarious adolescent daughters -- and they love having Harpur's university-student girlfriend around, especially at breakfast time.
Several of the series' principal criminals have family issues of their own, and Harpur's occasionally insane superior, ACC Desmond Iles, is regularly reduced to frothing rage when remembering his own wife's affair with Harpur. Even the maniac Iles, uncertain as he may be about the paternity of his own daughter (Sarah Iles has had an affair with another officer in addition to Harpur), develops a fierce and protective tenderness toward the child.
Over in the Netherlands, Janwillem van de Wetering carefully delineated three distinct family situations for his three protagonists: Sgt. Rinus de Gier, Adjutant Henk Grijpsta, and their wise old superior, the unnamed commissaris. In France, there are Benjamin Malaussène and his incredible multinational, multigenerational Belleville crew in Daniel Pennac's novels.
OK, I'll stop here. This is crime fiction, after all, and not social science. I'll throw the question in your laps, readers. What interesting families and alternative families can you think of in crime fiction? And why are they interesting?
P.S. Maxine at the Petrona blog picks up this question and puts a slightly different spin on it. Post your comments in both places, and we can turn this into a world-spanning mega-discussion.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
Harpur and Iles
Janwillem van de Wetering