The Crime Fiction Alphabet meme has packed up and moved on to the next stop on our perilous journey through the letters. Our tour leader Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is doing a terrific job of showing us the fearful sights. Today, we are taking a brief rest at the letter “K” and for this stop, my contribution is Martin Edwards’ Daniel Kind.
Kind is an Oxford historian who is just as interested in crime as he is in history. He ought to be: he’s the son of police detective Ben Kind, who has since died, and grew up hearing about his father’s cases. He’s also devoted to history and to learning as much as he can from the history he studies.
In fact, Kind achieved a great deal of success early in his career and became somewhat of a celebrity. Then, after the suicide of his girlfriend Aimee Durose, Kind began to re-evaluate everything. He decided to return to his home in the Lake District and although he travels, he always feels at his best in that part of England. In fact, that’s part of what makes Kind’s character appealing. He has a deep and abiding love of the land and of the people who live there. Kind is not at all what you’d call an environmentalist. But he does see the beauty of the place where he lives. In The Serpent Pool for instance, he returns to the Lakes District after a lecture tour of the US. Here’s what he says about his home, Tarn Cottage, to Edwards’ other sleuth DCI Hannah Scarlett:
“‘Even in dead of winter, Tarn Fold seems like Paradise. The stillness, the peace. To wake up in the morning and hear – nothing.’
‘Not tempted to stay in America?’
He shook his head. ‘I love the States but I’d never move there permanently. I can’t scrub the Lakes out of my system. And I don’t want to.’”
Not that she admits it to him but Scarlett is secretly quite pleased to hear that Kind plans to stay in the area. More on that shortly.
Another appealing element of Kind’s character is that although he is fascinated by crime and mystery, he knows that he isn’t a cop and he doesn’t rush in to do what the police should be doing. Nor does Edwards allow Kind’s character to make the police look bumbling or officious. At the same time, Kind’s own expertise is often very helpful as the police investigate cases. For instance, in The Hanging Wood, DCI Hannah Scarlett and her Cold Case Review team look into the apparent suicide of Orla Payne. Payne was convinced that her brother Callum, who disappeared twenty years earlier, was murdered. Since she worked in the same Lakeland library where Kind’s been doing research, he got to know her a bit and she told him her story. Kind recommended that Payne contact Scarlett but by the time Scarlett begins to really look into the matter, Payne is already dead. Scarlett and her team look into both Orla Payne’s death and Callum Payne’s disappearance. Meanwhile Kind finds out a lot about the family histories of the area. Both strands of the investigation yield important truths.
We see the same thing in The Serpent Pool. In that novel Kind’s research on Lakes District writer Thomas De Quincey helps Scarlett and her team find out the truth about the six-year-old death of Bethany Friend, and how that death is connected to two other deaths. Kind finds similarities between the historical research he does and the work the police do in putting the pieces of a puzzle together to solve crimes and if one looks at it that way, it’s easy to see why he would interest himself in crime.
Crime is an interest of Kind’s but he is also passionate about what he does professionally and that also makes him appealing as a character. He really finds history fascinating and his interest is infectious. In The Cipher Garden for instance, Kind gets interested in the garden of his cottage. He discovers that it’s barely been changed since it was first laid out in the time of the cottage’s first owners John and Alice Quiller in the early 20th Century. As Kind explores the history of the garden he finds that it’s got a very mysterious shape that may have a special meaning. His fascination with the history of the cottage and the area and his interest in solving this puzzle are contagious. It turns out too that this mystery is connected with a mystery that Scarlett and her team are investigating: the ten-year-old murder of landscaper Warren Howe.
Kind has had to get through some very difficult personal times. He’s had to get through the breakup of his parents’ marriage and his conflicted feelings about his father. He’s also had to cope with his sense of grief and loss over Aimee’s death. In fact, when we first meet Kind in The Coffin Trail, he and his new girlfriend Miranda have just taken Tarn Cottage near Brackdale in part because both want to start over. As Miranda puts it,
“Clean sheets for both of us.”
But Kind has difficulty resolving his sense of guilt and dealing with his loss. And yet (and this adds to his appeal as a character) Kind doesn’t let his personal troubles debilitate him. He gets on with his life bit by bit. He doesn’t drown himself in drink and he doesn’t engage in a lot of other self-destructive behaviour either.
Kind’s personal issues do make him a little cautious though, especially after he ends his relationship with Miranda. In the course of the Lake District series (currently at five novels and hopefully a sixth soon – right, Martin??? Right?), Kind develops real feelings for Hannah Scarlett. At first it’s mostly because she was his father’s protégée and worked with Ben Kind on several cases. So she represents a connection to Daniel Kind’s family and his past and a way of understanding his father. But as time goes on Kind realises that he has feelings for Scarlett as a person too. He is also fully aware that, for most of the series, Scarlett has a relationship with book dealer Marc Amos and even though that relationship isn’t exactly what you’d call a blissful one, it does mean that Scarlett is “spoken for.” Plus, Scarlett has her own issues to deal with; she herself admits she’s not really dealt with them yet. Kind’s approach to his relationship with Scarlett is appealing in that it’s not stereotypical. He doesn’t immediately try to seduce her, nor does he make her the target of his own unresolved grief. Still, just speaking personally, I do hope Kind and Scarlett find each other. A-hem, Hannah – Daniel is quite a catch!
Daniel Kind has a deep love for his home country, so to speak, a keen interest in unravelling mysteries and real expertise. And what’s not to like about an academic whose knowledge proves to be useful?