by Julia Buckley
In honor of the day, I've been thinking about romance. And in honor of our blog, I've been contemplating mystery--and they go together so well, like chocolate and peanut butter. My favorite mysteries, I realized, contain romance. That makes sense, since love can both drive a plot and become a motive for murder. It also allows a detective to better understand the human condition.
For example, this passage from Arthur Conan Doyle's story "The Gloria Scott", in which Holmes is able to deduce the misery engendered by a lost love:
"It is simplicity itself. When you bared your arm to draw the fish into the boat, I saw that J.A. had been tattooed in the bend of the elbow. The letters were still legible, but it was perfectly clear, from their blurred appearance, and from the staining of the skin round them, that efforts had been made to obliterate them. It was obvious, then, that those initials had once been very familiar to you, and that you had afterward wished to forget them."
Love itself, then, can become a clue in a mystery, but it can also be an impetus to the story. My favorite Dorothy Sayers novels were those that revolved around the growing romance between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, and for me that romance was more important than any old murder that Peter might solve.
In the novel Have His Carcase, Peter has proposed to Harriet on numerous occasions and has been continuously, gently, refused. He mentions to Harriet that he would love to see her in a claret-colored gown; the color, he believes, will suit her.
Later they are comparing notes about a murder during a dance at a seaside hotel. Harriet feels rather neglected because Peter has stopped proposing to her, and she is, in fact, wearing a wine-colored dress. She also feels self conscious about her dancing. Peter picks up on this and says, most romantically:
"Darling, if you danced like an elderly elephant with arthritis, I would dance the sun and the moon into the sea with you. I have waited a thousand years to see you dance in that frock."
Ah. It's lines like that which really stay with a person, and romances like that which really liven up a good mystery.
What are the greatest of mystery romances?
Well, the list would have to be topped by Peter and Harriet.
Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (Dorothy Sayers)
Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler (Arthur Conan-Doyle)
Nick and Nora Charles (Dashiell Hammett)
Tommy and Tuppence Beresford (Agatha Christie)
Adam Dalgliesh and Emma Lavenham (P.D. James)
Lucy Waring and Max Gale (Mary Stewart)
Oh, there are so many great ones. But I'd like to hear about the ones you found to be sigh-inducing romances!
Happy Valentine's Day!
(photo link here)