One of the things that helps us get through stressful times is the camaraderie we have with others. It may be a difficult project at work, the challenges of raising children or just the ups and downs of the new exercise regimen we've started at the local gym. Knowing we're not alone and that others face the same difficulties is an important part of coping with the challenges that life hands us. In fact, getting along with others - camaraderie - is so essential that, in a study of top managers, it was found that the most common reason for being fired, not being promoted, or not being hired in the first place is….not working well with others. Camaraderie is especially important in an extremely stressful job like law enforcement, where the work takes a serious toll. It may be for partly that reason that there are so many examples of camaraderie (or lack thereof) in crime fiction.
For instance, in Agatha Christie's The Murder on the Links, Hercule Poirot gets a frantic letter from Paul Renauld, a Canadian émigré to Franace. In the letter, Renauld says that he believes his life is in danger, and he begs Poirot to come to his aid. Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to the Renauld home in Merlinville-sur-mer, only to find when they arrive that they're too late. Renauld's been stabbed in the back and his body discovered on a golf course near the house. Poirot and Hastings work with Commissaire Lucien Bex and Juge d'Instruction M. Hautet to find out who killed Renauld and why. The four soon develop a camaraderie that allows them to share evidence and move the case along. The same isn't true, though, of M. Giraud of the Sûreté, who's also assigned to the crime. Giraud is arrogant, over-certain of the conclusions he's drawing and contemptuous of his colleagues. In fact, he and Poirot come to intensely dislike each other, to the point where they agree to a wager of 500 francs to see which one will solve the case first. Although Poirot finds out who the murderer is, the lack of camaraderie between Giraud and the other investigators proves more than once to be a stumbling block to the case.
We see another example of police camaraderie in Mark Richard Zubro's Another Dead Teenager. As that novel begins, Chicago homicide detectives Paul Turner and Buck Fenwick have just finished up a case and head out for lunch at Aunt Millie's Bar and Grill, a popular haunt of the local cops. There, they join fellow officers Dwayne Smythe and his partner Ashley Devonshire, younger officers who've recently joined the district and are rather proud of their own "track record:"
"Ashley….asked, 'Did you guys really wrap up that Lake Shore Drive shooting last night?'
Both detectives nodded….
'Damn you guys are good,' Dwayne said. He reached over and twiddled Fenwick's tie. The older cop growled. 'You guys are good, but Ashley and I are good and lucky. That's the combination you've got to have.'
Ashley patted Fenwick's hand, 'You're cute when you're angry.'"
That kind of teasing often cements the bonds that hold a group of people together, especially during something as stressful as a criminal investigation. Only moments after this conversation, Turner and Fenwick are called to the scene of a brutal murder: Jake Goldstein, a well-liked and successful student athlete, has been killed. Then, the body of his friend Frank Douglas is found. Now, Turner and Fenwick are involved in a high-profile murder case, since both victims were the sons of prominent Chicago families. After another brutal attack, Turner and Fenwick are finally able to solve this case, and throughout this story, we see how their rapport with their colleagues helps them put the pieces together.
Camaraderie is also critical in Kel Robertson's Smoke and Mirrors, in which Australian Federal Police officer Brad Chen works with his team to find out who killed former politician Alec Dennet and Lorraine Starke, who was editing Dennet's memoirs. Chen and the other team members depend on each other as the investigation goes on, and it's through a team effort that they find out who the murderer really was and what the motive was. Throughout the novel, there are several examples of the way the team gets along and works together, and of the kind of good-natured teasing that goes along with that camaraderie. For instance, at one point, Chen's had a run-in with an unpleasant gang that's after Dennet's memoirs, and he and his team-mate Filipowski have also just been through a long night of drinking. On the morning after, they go to Dennet's house to continue their investigation. When they arrive, another team-mate, nicknamed Talkative, is already there waiting:
"Talkative was sitting on the front steps. He folded up his newspaper as we approached. 'I thought I was going to have to read the finance section,' he said, getting to his feet.
'Your face is looking pretty ordinary.' [Talkative]
'You ought to experience it from my side. What happened to Turner?'
'He called in sick. Reckons he had a restless night.'
'That's not good,' I mused. 'He's a bloke who needs all the beauty sleep he can get.'…
'The two of you aren't in any position to throw stones,' he said.
As helpful and important as camaraderie is, it can also be problematic. That's what Rose Kearny finds in Deborah Crombie's In A Dark House. Kearny is a firefighter, the first woman on her firefighting team. It's taken her a while to be accepted among her colleagues in what's still very much a "man's world" and to share in the camaraderie. She doesn't want to do anything to "upset the apple cart," so when she begins to put the pieces together about a mysterious set of warehouse fires, she doesn't want to go directly to the police and behind the backs of her fellow firefighters. Instead, Rose Kearny approaches Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, who's heading up the investigation of death that occurred at one of the fire scenes. Privately, she gives him the information she's put together. That set of clues helps Kincaid find out what's behind the arson. The sub-plot of Rose Kearny's dilemma adds an interesting layer to this novel and addresses the important question of how critical camaraderie is.
We also see the negative side of camaraderie in more than one of Michael Connelly's novels. In stories such as The Black Ice and Angels Flight, camaraderie within the L.A.P.D. is used to cover up important facts and "hide" guilty people. Instead of depending on being able to get along with his fellow officers, Homicide detective Harry Bosch sometimes has to go against them, and it can get very lonely.
That's also true of Rhys Bowen's Constable Evan Evans, who's become quite attached to the people he works with in Llanfair. So in Evanly Bodies, when he's assigned to a new Major Incident response team, Evans is worried about losing the camaraderie he's come to rely on. He soon develops a rapport, though, with DS Jeremy Wingate and fellow DC Pritchard, who are also assigned to Evans' team. Mostly that rapport is built on their mutual dislike of their team boss, DI Bragg; however, the team members soon learn to respect and depend on each other. The team is called into action quickly when a series of three murders occur, linked only by the weapon used to commit them. Evans is still concerned about the ties he has with his own constabulary and it's partly for that reason that he gets involved when a young teen-ager disappears from the village. In the end, that decision not only "mends fences" with Evans' "home" constabulary, but it also helps in discovering who's behind the three murders Evans' new team is investigating.
But what do you think? Which novels have you enjoyed that feature the important role of camaraderie?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Beatles' With a Little Help From My Friends.