You Have Experienced Things I Never Have*

One of the most enriching bonds there is in family life is the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren. For grandparents, grandchildren are a breath of life and a way to connect with the future. For grandchildren, grandparents are a critical connection with the past and an important source of stability. There’s also of course the emotional bond between those two generations. Then too grandparents can provide a safe “landing spot” for grandchildren if it’s necessary. But even when it’s not, grandparents and their grandchildren connect in ways that are unlike any other bonds. That’s certainly the case in real life, and we see it a lot in crime fiction, too.

There’s a really interesting grandparent/grandchild bond in Agatha Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly, in which Hercule Poirot investigates the murder of fourteen-year-old Marlene Tucker. She is chosen to play the part of the victim in a Murder Hunt designed by detective novelist Ariadne Oliver. The Murder Hunt is one of the events at a fête to be held at Nasse House, the home of Sir George and Lady Hattie Stubbs. Oliver thinks that more is going on than the preparations for a fête, so she asks Poirot to attend as well, and he agrees. On the day of the fête, Marlene Tucker is strangled. As Poirot and Inspector Bland look into the case, they get to know Marlene’s family including her grandfather old Merdell. They find that Marlene was the only one who really paid attention to what Merdell said.  That relationship and one of Merdell’s stories prove to be crucial to solving Marlene’s murder and that of another person.

In Belinda Bauer’s Blacklands, there’s a very special bond between Gloria Peters and her grandson Steven. Eighteen years before the events in the novel, Gloria’s son (and Steven’s uncle) Billy Peters disappeared. He never returned and his body was never discovered. It’s always been believed that he was killed by Arnold Avery, a convicted murderer who’s currently in prison. But this has never been proven and the family has never really gotten closure. Steven wants to give his family closure and his grandmother some peace so he decides to find contact Arnold Avery to find out if he killed Billy Peters. He writes to Avery, who responds to his letter, and the two begin a very dangerous game of cat and mouse. Steven tries to disguise not only his identity but also his real reason for contacting Avery. Avery has his own agenda in maintaining contact with Steven. The more these two try to manipulate each other, the more risky the situation becomes. Throughout this novel we see how Gloria and Steven depend on each other and need each other; their bond is an important part of the novel.

Ǻsa Larsson’s Rebecka Martinsson feels a special bond with her grandmother even though she’s no longer living. Martinsson spent a lot of time with her grandparents during her growing-up years and they formed a very strong relationship. To Martinsson they represented stability and comfort and she still thinks of them often. In fact, as the series begins, Martinsson travels from Stockholm, where she works as a tax attorney, to Kiruna, where she grew up, to help a friend who’s been accused of murder. While she’s there, she stays in her grandparents’ home and we sense how close they were. Throughout the series, Martinsson’s memories of her grandparents are a source of strength to her.

And then there’s Donna Leon’s Donatella Falier, who has a close relationship with her grandchildren Chiara and Raffi Brunetti. For example, in About Face, Leon’s sleuth Commissario Guido Brunetti is investigating the connections among the death of a trucking company owner, illegal toxic waste and shady business deals. The key to it all seems to be Franca Marinello, an enigmatic woman Brunetti meets at a dinner party given by his parents-in-law. Here is one of Brunetti’s thoughts as he is sitting at the dinner table:


“The sight of the table, laden with china and silver, exploding with flowers, reminded him [Brunetti] of the last meal he had had in this house, only two weeks before. He had stopped by to bring two books to the Contessa, with whom, in the last years, he had begun to exchange them, and he had found his son there with her. Raffi had explained that he had come to pick up the essay he had prepared for his Italian class and which his grandmother had offered to read…
Raffi, who sometimes bridled when Brunetti disagreed with his view of history or Paola corrected his grammar, seemed entirely persuaded that his grandmother knew whereof she wrote and was busy entering her suggestions into his laptop; Brunetti listened attentively as she explained them.”


That’s a very clear portrait of the way grandchildren can connect with their grandparents in a way that they sometimes don’t with their parents.

There’s also a very special relationship between Karin Fossum’s Oslo detective Konrad Sejer and his grandson Matteus. Sejer’s daughter Ingrid and her husband adopted Matteus from Somalia, so Matteus has had his difficult moments fitting into Norwegian society. But as Matteus grows up, we see that the bond he has with Sejer is an important part of both lives. In When the Devil Holds the Candle, for instance, Sejer and his partner Jacob Skarre investigate several disparate incidences including a purse-snatching, a break-in and the disappearance of a teenager named Andreas. As it turns out, Matteus has some important information about the case and although he’s dealing with his own issues, he provides his grandfather with one of the keys to putting the case together.

Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Reg Wexford also has a close relationship with his grandchildren. For instance, he takes his grandsons Robin and Ben on outings, he tries to keep up with their interests and he and his wife Dora look after them as they’re growing up when their parents are away. He also loves his grand-daughters Mary, Amy and Anoushka and so does Dora. In fact, in the The Vault, that’s one of the chief joys for Wexford of having retired and moved to a converted coach house home belonging to his daughter Sheila. He misses life as a cop, but he does enjoy being a grandfather and Dora enjoys being a grandmother.

There are lots of other examples in crime fiction of grandparents and grandchildren and the bonds that they have. I’ll bet you can think of more than I can. It’s a unique bond that can enrich everyone.



On Another Note…


If you’re celebrating Easter, I wish you and your family a very happy holiday filled with a sense of renewal and connection with one another. If you are celebrating Passover, I wish you and your family a very special holiday. May you feel the connection between the past, the present and the future.




*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Kate Nash’s My Best Friend is You.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Åsa Larsson, Belinda Bauer, Donna Leon, Karin Fossum, Ruth Rendell

23 responses to “You Have Experienced Things I Never Have*

  1. Happy Easter to you and your family, Margot!

    As usual, I can´t come up with examples of my own, but Inspector Wexford and Konrad Sejer are very fine examples.

    • Dorte – Thank you very much :-). I wish you and your family a very Happy Easter, too. And you know, I’ve always liked the relationships that both of those sleuths have with their grandchildren.

  2. Margot: One of the many reasons I love Gail Bowen’s series featuring Joanne Kilbourn is Joanne’s family. In the book you reviewed, Deadly Appearances, her oldest, Mieka, was off to university. In later books Mieka has children who are an important part of Joanne’s life. Lena and Madeline spent overnights with their grandmother, Joanne, in their own room at grandma’s house most weekends. In real life I have met one of Gail’s granddaughters and I can see the source of her inspiration.

    • Bill – I’m not as far along in that series as you are, but what I have read makes it clear that family is very important to Joanne, and I love that aspect of those novels too. That’s so neat that you’ve met Gail Bowen’s grand-daughter. Grandchildren really can be an inspiration…

  3. Margot, what a lovely topic to focus on during the Easter weekend; and an important and often overlooked relationship too. You start with truly wonderful personal words reflecting your own views, which are beautiful.

    One of the key things I found when reading Blacklands was the impact of the crime on the family and their relationships, a part of the novel handled extremely well. The damage was clear and felt in the heart on reading. For a novel that was deeply embedded in tragedy, we saw hope in the strength that was found in that specific relationship after so much damage had been inflicted on the grandmother.

    Wishing you and your readers a wonderful Easter.

    • Rhian – Thank you so much for the kind words :-). And thanks for your good wishes, too; I hope you have a wonderful Easter as well.
      You’re quite right too that one of Blacklands‘ strengths is the way that the family’s very real grief and sorrow are handled. Readers feel the pain precisely because it is depicted clearly but not melodramatically. And yes, the strength in the relationships and the way Steven and his grandmother draw strength from each other are just beautifully done in that novel. Yes it’s sad, but that part of it gives readers hope.

  4. I hope you have a great weekend! I love your posts and the relationship between grandparent and grandchild is a lovely bond. Not really touched on as much as it could be I think.

    • Clarissa – Why, thank you :-). That’s very kind of you. And I agree – there’s just something special about the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren.

  5. Happy Easter Margot. We have a week to wait in Greece as Orthodox Easter is next Sunday.
    Nice post about the grandparent bond. It made me think of my granddad who was a train driver for Great Western Railways. He drove a train with Winston Churchill on it during the war and when the bombs started falling everyone had to get off the train and climb under it to shelter. Everyone except Churchill who refused to budge.

    • Sarah – Thank you and Happy Easter to you, too. I hope you’ll enjoy your holiday next week. Thanks for sharing the story of your grandad. That’s so interesting that he met Winston Churchill and that’s a great story about Churchill refusing to leave the train when the bombs were falling. Grandparents just have those stories and I think they really do teach us about the past.

  6. Happy Easter, Margot. Yes, that bond seems to be a strong one. It featured in the book I just finished, The Other Child by Charlotte Link, where one of the main characters is a grandmother who bought up another of the main characters from the age of 5. That turns out to be quite dark, though.

    • I have ‘The Other Child’ to read for crimesquad. Was it good?

    • Maxine – Thank you :-). And thanks for mentioning The Other Child. I’ve heard some good things about it (‘though you’re not the only person who’s said it’s quite dark) and I”ll be really interested in your review of it.

  7. J. A. Jance’s series about Sheriff Joanna Brady set in Arizona has two examples of grandparents that contrast. Her own mother is so difficult she has me pounding my fist on the arm of my chair, but her late husband’s parents and her stepfather are loving, generous people who give her daughter stability and never-ending love. Those relationships are probably what I love most about that series, perhaps because I had such a close relationship with my maternal grandparents.

    • Barbara – I’m very glad you had a good relationship with your maternal grandparents; that can be so very nourishing. Thanks for mentioning Jance’s series, too. I’ve only dipped into that one, so I can’t comment really intelligently about it; I’m glad you can. There’s certainly a fascinating contrast there in the way those grandparents relate to Brady’s daughter Jenny.

  8. sarah1357

    Too late to wish you Happy Easter, so I’ll say I hope you had a good one 🙂

  9. kathy d.

    Happy Passover and Happy Easter to everyone.
    In reading about grandparents, I cannot fail to remember my grandmother, Sophie, who lived to be 98. She was one strong, determined woman with integrity. She came to the States in 1907 and worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory but was absent on March 25, 1911, the day of the fire that book the lives of 146 mostly immigrant women and girls, many of them her friends and Russian/Polish/Jewish immigrants as she was.
    I miss her.

    • Kathy – I hope you had a wonderful holiday, too. Thank you for sharing the about your grandmother. She sounds like an extraordinary person! It must have been horrible for her to lose so many friends on that terrible day. I’m glad you had her to love for a long time and I’m sure you miss her.

  10. Mike Befeler’s Paul Jacobson series features Paul’s granddaughter as his co-sleuth. She adds a lot to the charm of a geezer with short term memory loss when she helps him find a way of dealing with his forgetfulness.

  11. kathy d.

    I wonder what methods Paul Jacobson’s granddaughter uses to help him with his forgetfulness. Some of us might be able to utilize them.

    • Kathy – Jennifer encourages her grandfather to keep a journal in which he writes what happens to him. Then he can look back on it and remember better. He actually gets that idea from a friend, but Jennifer learns about it and encourages him to continue.

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