Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence Beresford are sleuths who are also the parents of twins Deborah and Derek, and an adopted daughter Betty. Their children appear in several of the Tommy and Tuppence novels, but they don’t seem to be as dramatically affected by what their parents do as other detectives’ children sometimes are. That might be because of the timing of the Beresfords’ cases. When we meet the Beresfords in The Secret Adversary, they’re not parents yet. Later, in N or M?, they get involved in international espionage, but by then, they’re middle-aged. Deborah and Derek are grown and away from home and although they love their parents, they’re not affected by the story in the same way as they would be if they were still at home. The events of N or M?, though, introduce the Beresfords to their third child, Betty. In that sense, she is greatly affected by what they do. But after that novel, the Beresfords don’t really get involved in cases until By the Pricking of My Thumbs, some twenty years later. By that time, Betty’s an adult. So, while the Beresford children certainly know about their parents’ sleuthing, they don’t have the same reactions to it that other detectives’ children sometimes do.
Especially for detectives whose marriages have ended, relationships with their children can be difficult. That’s the case with Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander. His daughter Linda tried to commit suicide when she was a teenager. Since then, she and her father have had their unpleasant times. They’re both stubborn and sometimes morose, and Wallander has always had his job as such a priority that this has also gotten in the way of their relationship. And yet, he does love his daughter, and Linda Wallander does respect and love her father. In fact, she follows in his footsteps and becomes a police officer herself, although not without second thoughts. After all, those are very big footsteps to follow.
We also see a conflicted relationship in Mark Richard Zubro’s Paul Turner and Buck Fenwick series. Turner, a Chicago police detective, is the father of two children, Brian and Jeff, whom he loves very much and with whom he’s established a bond. And yet, that doesn’t mean there are no difficulties. Turner’s long hours mean that Brian sometimes takes care of his younger brother, who’s got spina bifida. And as Brian grows into the teen years, he begins to feel the conflict between his father-as-parent/confidant and his father-as-cop. In Another Dead Teenager, for instance, Brian learns something important about a friend of his .At first, he’s afraid to discuss it with his father because he believes his father will have no choice but to use his authority as a police officer. But his father is also his trusted parent, and in the end, Brian is persuaded to tell his father what he knows. It makes for an interesting sub-plot about the reality of being a cop’s kid.
There’s also an interesting depiction of a detective’s relationship with his children in Martin Edwards’ Lake District series. Daniel and Louise Kind are the children of retired police detective Ben Kind. Ben is no longer active on the police force, but he passed his interest in crime to his son, although Daniel hasn’t become a police detective himself. In fact, that interest in crime is part of what draws Daniel Kind to his father’s former protégée, Hannah Scarlett. Despite both Daniel and Hannah’s admiration for Ben, though, no-one pretends that Ben has been perfect. He was unfaithful to Daniel and Louise’s mother, and that’s been very hard on both of them. His dedication to the job meant he wasn’t at home very often. But as the Kind siblings learn more about the detective their father was, they come to terms with his failings. This evolution makes for a fascinating sub-plot to these novels.
And then there are the Wexford daughters, Sylvia and Sheila. Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford loves his daughters very much, and they him. But that doesn’t mean there is no conflict in the family. This happens not so much because of Wexford’s hours as because of differences in outlook. In fact, Wexford and, especially, his daughter Sylvia have quite a few serious differences that make for a difficult relationship. And yet, Wexford’s family is a top priority for him. And even though he and his daughters do have disagreements and even serious philosophical differences, there is an underlying sense of commitment. We see that, for instance, in A Sleeping Life. In that novel, along with the case that Wexford is investigating, he’s also got to deal with daughter Sylvia’s decision to leave her husband and come back home to her parents. As she goes through her personal crisis, we see that despite the differences they have, there is a bond between them.
Sometimes, being a detective’s child can be dangerous. In Michael Connelly’s 9 Dragons, for instance, Harry Bosch is investigating tongs – Chinese gangs – that are operating in Los Angeles. Bosch believes that the recent shooting death of a liquor store owner is the work of a local tong, and is on the trail of the person he thinks is responsible. Then he gets a frantic call with word that his daughter Maddie, who lives in Hong Kong, has been taken hostage. Bosch drops everything and flies to Hong Kong to rescue Maddie. As he searches desperately for Maddie, we can see Bosch’s commitment to her, even though she doesn’t live with him. As the novel goes on, we find out what the surprising connection is between the kidnapping and tong activity. We also find out why Maddie was really taken hostage. Among many other things, this novel is an absorbing look at the relationship of a cop to his child.
Even though Michael Robotham’s Joe O’Loughlin isn’t a police officer, his children are deeply affected by his work as a psychiatrist who also gets involved in criminal investigation. We see that especially in Shatter, in which O’Loughlin tries to find out the truth behind the suicide of Christine Wheeler. He’s called to the scene as she’s standing on a bridge, ready to jump. Tragically, he’s unable to prevent her suicide, and later, her daughter Darcy visits him and says that she believes her mother was manipulated into committing suicide. O’Loughlin doesn’t see how someone could make another person commit suicide, but he agrees to look into the case. Then, there’s another death. It’s soon clear that a serial killer is at work and is somehow able to convince victims to kill themselves. O’Loughlin works with his friend Inspector Vincent Ruiz to find the killer before there’s another death. The sense of urgency is ratcheted up when the killer prepares to strike very close to home for O’Loughlin. Throughout this novel, we see the impact of involvement in criminal investigations on the sleuth’s children.
Of course, not all fictional police detectives’ children face conflict or trauma because of what their parents do. For instance, Donna Leon’s Chiara and Raffi Brunetti have disagreements with their father, Commissario Guido Brunetti, from time to time. But they’re usually typical (if there is such a thing) parent/child arguments. The same is true of Caroline Graham’s Cully Barnaby. Her father, Inspector Tom Barnaby, dotes on her and has managed to protect her from most of the ugliness of what he sometimes has to do.
There are plenty of other novels – more than I have space to mention here – where we see the effect of a police detective’s work on his or her children. Jassy Mackenzie’s Jade de Jong is one example. She grew up in a cop’s home and largely because of that, she wanted to be a police officer herself. Her father and his best team member David Patel convinced her otherwise, and Jade became a private investigator. In Random Violence, we see Jade’s devotion to her father, the effect of his job and his life on her and how her work reflects his influence. Which novels have you enjoyed that feature cops’ children?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s 2000 Years.