But Nothing on Earth Could Ever Divide Us*

Children's Friendships with AdultsThere’s an old saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Certainly children are influenced not just by their parents and siblings, but also by a lot of other people, too. And sometimes they form friendships with people you wouldn’t expect. There’s even a certain bond that develops sometimes between children and older people.

That may be because older people have the time and patience to hear what children have to say. And for their part, children often have a different perspective on what their grandparents and other older people have to say.  Those friendships are woven into crime fiction, and they can add interesting layers of plot and character development to a story.

Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun introduces readers to sixteen-year-old Linda Marshall. She and her father, Captain Kenneth Marshall, take a holiday at the Jolly Roger Hotel, on Leathercombe Bay. With them is Marshall’s second wife, famous actress Arlena Stuart Marshall. Linda’s going through all of the awkwardness that comes with being a teenager. And things are not made any easier by the fact that her stepmother is beautiful and graceful. Linda’s very unhappy, but doesn’t really have anyone to talk to about what’s on her mind. One day, Arlena is found strangled not far from the hotel. Hercule Poirot, who’s taking a holiday at the same place, works with the police to catch the killer. As a part of the investigation, he has to find out what Linda knows and whether she might have been involved in some way. And it’s interesting to see how he reaches out to her. In her own awkward way, Linda reaches out, too, and that adds to this story. I agree with you, fans of Dead Man’s Folly.

In Arthur Upfield’s The Bushman Who Came Back, Queensland Police Inspector Napoleon ‘Boney’ Bonaparte investigates a murder that takes place at Mount Eden, a homestead belonging to Mr. Wooten. One day, Wooten’s housekeeper, Mrs. Bell, is found shot in the kitchen. What’s worse, her seven-year-old daughter Linda has gone missing. There’s evidence that a local bushman nicknamed Ol Fren Yorky was at the scene of the crime. He knew the people living at the ranch, too, and is thoroughly familiar with the area.  So it wouldn’t have been hard for him to take the child and disappear. No-one wants to believe that Yorky would have committed this crime or hurt Linda, since he’s well-liked. But it is a possibility, so he has to be found. Boney works with the local police to find out the truth behind this case; and, as he does, we learn that Linda and Yorky are friends in that way that children make friends with older people. It adds both a plot point and a layer of interest to the novel. You’re absolutely right, fans of Death of a Swagman.

Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Salvo Montalbano and his longtime lover, Livia Burlando, make friends with a young boy named François in The Snack Thief. In one plot thread of that novel, Montalbano investigates the murder of a retired business executive who was killed in the elevator of his apartment building. The key to this mystery, and to another murder that Montalbano and his team are investigating, may be Karima, a housekeeper and sometimes-prostitute who could be a connection between the two cases. By the time Montalbano discovers this link, though, Karima has disappeared, leaving behind her son François. While the police team is looking for the boy’s mother, he has to stay somewhere safe, so Montalbano and Livia (who happens to be visiting) take him in. In the process, they strike up a friendship with him, and Livia in particular begins to bond with him. François isn’t the reason for the murders, but that friendship adds character depth to Montalbano and to Livia, and an interesting plot thread.

Virginia Duigan’s The Precipice features former school principal Thea Farmer. She bought a piece of land in New South Wales’ Blue Mountains, and had a dream home built, with the idea of living out her retirement there. But bad luck and poor financial decisions have changed her plans. Now, she lives in the much smaller house next door to the home she used to own. What’s worse, the home she still considers hers has been purchased by Frank Campbell and Ellice Carrington, people she refers to as ‘invaders’ and ‘aliens.’ Thea’s just getting used to that when Frank’s twelve-year-old niece, Kim, moves in with him and Ellice. Oddly enough, considering that Thea tends to be a misanthrope, she and Kim form an odd sort of friendship. They begin to spend time together, and Kim even attends a writing class that Thea’s taking. In fact, Thea sees real promise in the girl. So when she suspects that Frank and Ellice may not be providing an appropriate home for Kim, Thea gets concerned. She has no real evidence, though, so the police aren’t likely to do anything about it. So, Thea decides to make her own plans. The relationship between Thea and Kim is a really engaging (and important) plot thread in this novel.

And then there’s Derek B. Miller’s Norwegian by Night. Sheldon Horowitz has moved from his native New York City to Norway, to be closer to his granddaughter Rhea and her Norwegian husband Lars. One day, he inadvertently witnesses the murder of a young woman who lives upstairs from Rhea and Lars. He rescues her young son, and he and the boy go on the lam. Horowitz knows that the killers could be after the boy, and wants to keep him safe. Neither speaks the other’s language, but the two form a sort of friendship as they try to elude the murderers. For the boy, Horowitz represents a kind of safety. For Horowitz, the boy adds a purpose to his life.

And that’s the thing about the friendships that can develop between children and older people. Each fulfills a need that the other has, and that bond can do much for both. And in novels, such friendships can add character development and interest.



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Charles Strouse and Martin Charmin’s I Don’t Need Anything But You.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Andrea Camilleri, Arthur Upfield, Derek B. Miller, Virginia Duigan

25 responses to “But Nothing on Earth Could Ever Divide Us*

  1. What a lovely post, one that despite dealing with murder, manages also to celebrate one of the most endearing types of relationships – I do like the sound of The Precipice and witness the relationship between Thea and Kim – one that by the sound of it is central to the plot.

    • Thank you, Cleo. I agree that those relationships between children and older adults are special and endearing. And I really think that they benefit all concerned. The Precipice is by no means a light novel. But the relationship between Thea and Kim, while not at all full of hugs and secrete confidences, is an important bond for both. They care about each other and end up enriching each other’s lives in their own ways.

  2. Your post reminds me of Mike Befeler’s light-hearted series featuring an 80-something year old man who suffers from short term memory loss. He teams up with his granddaughter to solve a case in at least one of the novels.

    • I’m so glad you mentioned this series, Pat! It’s a terrific set of novels, and features a lovely relationship between Jacobson and his grand-daughter. Thanks for filling in the gap.

  3. I love that you spotlighted the youngster/elder relationship. I couldn’t help but think of my own grandchildren as I read this, minus the murders of course. lol

  4. Thanks for including the Motalbano example, I really liked that one (though a later story that links to it had an ending I really got depressed by). A life without young people in it on a regular basis is just unimaginable to me.

    • I agree, Sergio. There is such an important link between young people and older people; it benefits everyone. And you’re right about that later Montalbano novel, too. Still, that plot thread in The Snack Thief adds so much to the story, I think.

  5. Col

    I’ll bump Norwegian by Night closer to the top of the pile!

    • I hope you like it if you get the chance to read it, Col. It’s not your ‘typical’ sort of crime novel (if there is one!), but it’s a good ‘un, in my opinion.

  6. An interesting post, Margot. The relationship between youngsters and older people can lead a story in so many directions.

  7. Margot, a subplot in “Presumption of Death” by Perri O’Shaughnessy is lawyer-sleuth Nina Reilly’s overriding concern for the welfare of a young boy who is held captive by his no-good older brother, a suspect in the wildfires in Carmal Valley. The boy reveals how his brother could be planning something sinister involving other children in the village. I liked the emotional bond that Reilly and the boy share. I thought it added a nice touch to the narrative.

    • Thank you, Prashant. That’s exactly the sort of thing I had in mind with this post. And you’re right; sub-plots like that can add much to the overall power of a story.

  8. I’ve been lucky enough to have friends aged 10 and 75+
    Thanks for the interesting post

    • Thanks, June – glad you enjoyed the post. And you are fortunate. I think it’s good for all of us to have friends from many different age groups. You learn a lot that way.

  9. Pingback: But Nothing on Earth Could Ever Divide Us* | e. michael helms

  10. kathyd

    Norwegian by Night is an excellent book with quite a main character. It’s full of wit, too, and nostalgia, a bit of dementia. Relationships are key in this book.

    • Yes, they are, Kathy. And Sheldon Horowitz’ character is, I think, really well drawn. The book has some really interesting themes, among them relationships, as you say.

  11. kathyd

    Derek B. Miller is coming out with a new book soon, The Girl in Green. Can’t wait. Wonder if there will be wit and what it’s all about. Although I’m skeptical of “The Girl…” books, I will read this one.

  12. Norwegian by Night is a book I really must read – plenty of recommendations from you, Kathy, and others

  13. tracybham

    I am with Moira and Col, Norwegian by Night is one I must read soon. I have had it a couple of years now.

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