Recently someone wrote a comment on my blog about the ‘random topics’ I write about, which got me thinking about how far I’ve come away from a detective and crime fiction focused site through to a general book blog.
Seeking to get myself back on track, I decided to do a top five on my favourite sidekicks who accompany some of the world’s best detectives and how they keep readers interested even when the protagonist exhausts the reader’s patience.
After all, detective accomplices often serve the same purpose in the narrative as they do in literarily: they act as an interpreter between the detective and the reader. Usually they are in same position as the reader: they don’t have the insight and detective capabilities of the protagonist, and as such have the detective explain their processes. At the same time, they usually understand them and as such the author uses them as a tool to share information with the reader without just dumping it on them in big pieces of description.
So, to get back to my crime fiction roots, I showcase five of my favourite detective accomplices and explore the important role they play in their series. I hope it allows you to find a new read or to learn more about an old favourite.
5. Dr Watson: You might think that Sherlock Holmes’ accomplice would be a contender for the top spot, but as a basic copy of the original by Edgar Allan Poe and the template for hundreds of future detective sidekicks he is basically a caricature. However, he’s still an important part of the crime fiction space, and he has become a beacon for all future detective accomplices: loyal, determined, and unbelievably ordinary. He doesn’t have the supreme intellect of Conan Doyle’s famed detective but he has the military background to make an ideal bodyguard and the education to be useful at a crime scene.
4. Captain Hastings: Agatha Christie’s Poirot was not always accompanied by his sidekick, Hastings, who is a clear rip-off of Watson, but he is the best of all of Christie’s myriad of sidekicks. He is just as loyal and determined as Watson, without the intellect but boasting the military background, physical strength and social knowledge that his friend lacks.
3. Bunter: Lord Peter Wimsey’s valet, former army sergeant and closet confident, Dorothy L. Sayer’s character is, at first glance the epitome of a Watsonion detective accomplice. However, when you consider his personal love of photography and skills in that area, as well as his willingness to answer Lord Peter back and his, until the later books, almost complete lack of life outside of his work, you see that Bunter is in fact an innovative incarnation of the traditional model.
2. Sergeant Lewis: Colin Dexter’s sergeant, who is Welsh in the books and a Geordie on TV, is a typical example police character but he changes the model for detective sidekicks. Whilst many are younger and less experienced than the detective themselves, in the books Lewis is older than his boss, and he is infinitely more professional. What he lacks as a former boxer and uneducated man is the education and class to easily mix with and uncover the secrets of Oxford’s elite, which is where his boss comes in. Together the pair make a formidable team.
1. Pommes Frites: The cutest detective sidekick I’ve ever come across is Pommes Frites, Michael Bond’s bloodhound who assists Monsieur Pamplemousse, an undercover gastronomic reviewer who often gets into sticky situations and has to sleuth his way back out. This quirky duo work well together to create a perfect unique combination in a series of heartwarming and dastardly tales by the creator of Paddington Bear.