This is the time of year when a lot of people offer some excellent suggestions for books to give as gifts. I’m glad of that because I always get such excellent ideas for books to give and books to read. So to those of you who offer those suggestions, thanks.
I’ve decided to do something a bit differently, though. Oh, don’t tell me you’re surprised ;-). One of the things that makes crime fiction sleuths unforgettable is that they are human. They seem like real people and we talk about them almost as though they were real. I know I’ve done that. So instead of offering a list of books, I thought it might be interesting to think about what I would give some of my favourite sleuths as gifts. Now of course, there’s not room in this post for me to mention every sleuth I like. But here are just a few ideas.
To Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, I would give a set of custom-made jigsaw puzzles. Oh, not the basic, simple and easy kind, but real challenges. And not mass-produced puzzles either. After, Poirot is unique; why should his puzzles not be? Poirot often uses jigsaw puzzles to help him think through the cases he’s solving. For instance, in Dead Man’s Folly, Poirot helps Inspector Bland solve the murder of fourteen-year-old Marlene Tucker. There seems no motive for the murder, so even Poirot doesn’t have the answer at first. He’s puzzling over a jigsaw when after a lot of thought, he realises that there’s one person in particular who has the key to the mystery. That person turns out, in fact, to know who probably committed the crime, and Poirot learns a lot from that witness.
I wouldn’t want to leave Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch off my list! Bosch is a very busy police detective who doesn’t take a lot of time for himself. But he and I share a love of good jazz. So my gift to him would be a collection of very rare jazz performances – good imports as well as “domestic” jazz. Jazz music sounds different with each performance, so there’d be several live and studio renditions, too. I’d specialise in those classic acoustic jazz performances, too, since that’s what Bosch loves. As we find out in The Black Echo as well as other Bosch novels, Bosch listens to jazz not just to soothe himself (although it has that effect) but also to identify with the loneliness and other deep emotions inherent in jazz. And Bosch could do with something to pamper himself.
Music would also be my gift to Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski. She’s a lover of fine opera, so I’d arrange for her a collection of world-class opera performances. I’d concentrate on the great Italian operas (although of course, that’s not the only kind of opera she likes), but I’d include others, too. And of course, they’d have to be in several formats. I’d want them in MP3 format so Warshawski could listen to them as she goes running (for those not familiar with Warshawski, that’s how she stays healthy). I’d also want them in CD version so she could listen to them as she drives. That way no matter which car she happened to be using, she’d be able to listen.
For Åsa Larsson’s Inspector Anna-Maria Mella, I’d be just a bit more practical. She’s a very busy detective with four children and a budget. Although her husband Robert is a loving and caring husband, he’s busy with his work, too. So to that family I’d give maid service. All too often, Mella’s called out in the middle of the night for long hours of work. And when she is home, she’s often either exhausted or stressed (and who wouldn’t be with the cases she has to investigate). Wouldn’t it be nice for her to come home to clean laundry, a sparkling kitchen and a tidy house? Maid service would also allow Mella to spend more time with the children she so obviously loves.
Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza’s Inspector Espinosa doesn’t live with a family. But he does live with books. A lot of them. He’s a real bibliophile although he doesn’t get an awful lot of time to read or to add to his collection. And he and I share a love of the stories that books tell. So for Espinosa, I’d provide two things: a collection of good rare books, and attractive hand-made shelves to hold them. That way he’d be able to get to those novels that always get buried in cartons. Espinosa doesn’t have a lot of space in his home, so constructing such a personal library might take some doing. But hey, we’re just imagining here ;-).
Another of my favourite bibliophiles is Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti. He thoroughly enjoys reading and particularly the classics. For example, in About Face, he and his wife Paola Falier are invited to dinner with Paola’s parents. When they get there, they’re introduced to two other guests: businessman Maurizio Cataldo and his wife Franca Marinello. Brunetti and Franca Marinello soon find that they have in common a love of Virgil, Cicero and other classics. And as the story moves on, we learn that Franca Marinello is tied in with several of Brunetti’s investigations, including illegal transportation of toxic waste and two murders (‘though not in the way one might think). So for Commissario Brunetti, I’d provide a library of rare editions of Virgil, Cicero, Plato and other great classics. And of course, I couldn’t forget Paola Falier. So for her, I’d give a complete Henry James collection, including James’ work, commentaries on his work and biographies of James.
There are a lot of other sleuths I like, but there isn’t room in just this one post to mention them all. But what about you? What gift would you give your favourite sleuths? If you’re a writer, what would your sleuth want?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Beatles’ From Me to You.