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.