Whenever a wealthy person gets involved with a much younger person, all sorts of assumptions are made. She’s a ‘trophy wife,’ or he’s a ‘boy toy,’ only in the relationship for the money. And sometimes, that’s true. Certainly, it’s a stereotype that we hear a lot about in real life.
It’s there in crime fiction, too, and it can make for an interesting set of dynamics in a story. If there are children involved, there are all sorts of issues there. And even if there aren’t, there can be any amount of tension that comes from that sort of relationship.
Agatha Christie used those relationships in more than one of her stories. For instance, in both Triangle at Rhodes and Evil Under the Sun, the main plot revolves around a wealthy woman (Valentine Chantry and Arlena Stuart Marshall, respectively) who begins a relationship with a younger man. In both cases, the women are married to other people, so there’s tension on that score. And in both cases, there’s plenty of gossip about the romance. Christie also depicts that sort of relationship in The Mystery of the Blue Train. One of the characters in that novel is Lady Rosalie Tamplin. She’s married to her ‘boy toy’ husband, ‘Chubby’ Evans, and she does like him. Her daughter, Lenox, has this to say about him:
‘‘And Chubby now,’ said Lenox. ‘He is an expensive luxury if you like.’’
Lady Tamplin and her daughter get involved in a murder mystery when a distant cousin, Katherine Grey, comes to visit. During the train ride to Nice, where Lady Tamplin lives, Katherine meets a woman who is murdered the next night. Hercule Poirot is also on the train, and he works to find out who the killer is.
Cathy Ace’s The Corpse With the Silver Tongue introduces readers to her sleuth, Catlin ‘Cait’ Morgan. Originally from Wales, she lives and works in Vancouver, where she teaches criminology at the University of Vancouver. When a colleague breaks some bones in a bicycle accident, she agrees to take his place at an upcoming symposium in Nice, where she will deliver his paper. The presentation goes well enough, but trouble starts when she happens to encounter a former employer, Alistair Townsend. On impulse, Townsend invites her to the birthday party he’s having for his ‘trophy wife,’ Tamsin, that evening. At first, Morgan refuses. But Townsend won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and before she knows it, Morgan’s agreed to go. At the party, Townsend suddenly collapses and dies of what turns out to be poison. Since Morgan is the only ‘outsider,’ and since she had good reason to dislike the victim, she becomes a ‘person of interest.’ Partly in order to clear her name, she starts to ask some questions. It turns out that more than one person had a motive for wanting Townsend dead.
In Teresa Solana’s A Not So Perfect Crime, we are introduced to Barcelona PIs Eduard Martínez and his twin brother Josep “Pep” (who prefers to be called Borja). They may be twins, but they have very little in common. Eduard, for instance, is happily married to his wife, Montse. Borja, though, is not so interested in marriage. As the novel begins, he’s happy being ‘kept’ by his wealthy lover, Merche. So, he gets to drive a good car, get his hair done at the best places, wear an expensive wardrobe, and so on. The main plot of this novel concerns Lluís Font, a prominent Conservative politician who suspects that his wife, Lídia, is being unfaithful. He hires the Martínez brothers to follow her and see if she is, indeed, having an affair. They find no evidence of that, but not long afterwards, Lídia is poisoned. Now, Font becomes a murder suspect. He hires the brothers to stay on the case and clear his name. Borja’s personal life isn’t the reason for the murder. But it’s an interesting layer of his character, and it’s one of many ways in which he and Eduard are different.
In Surender Mohan Pathak The Colaba Conspiracy, Jeet Singh has determined to leave behind his safecracking/lockbreaking past. He’s got a legitimate business now – a Mumbai kiosk where he makes and sells keys. One day, he gets a call from a former confederate, offering him quite a lot of money if he’ll do a job. Singh refuses outright; he doesn’t want any more to do with crime and the police. He wavers a bit, though, when an old friend, Gailo, asks him to go in on a job. This one will be quite lucrative, and Singh feels that he owes Gailo. Still, he says ‘no’ at first. Everything changes when Singh gets a visit from a former lover, Sushmita. Since they ended their relationship, she’s married wealthy Pursumal Changulani, a man who’s much older than she is. Her status as a ‘trophy wife’ certainly hasn’t endeared her to Changulani’s children. But matters get much worse when Changulani is killed. At first, his death looks like a carjacking gone wrong. But evidence has come up that suggests that this was a pre-planned murder. If so, then someone hired the person who committed the crime. And the police suspect that that someone was Sushmita. Changulani’s children claim that he was never legally married to Sushmita, so she has no claim on any of his money. Until that matter is settled, she has no access to his fortune, so she asks Singh’s financial help, so she can hire a lawyer. This is enough to push Singh into accepting the job Gailo offered. It’s also enough to get him mixed up in a murder case. When the police begin to suspect that he was working with Sushmita, Singh knows he’ll have to find out who the real killer was if he’s going to clear his name.
There’s a really interesting ‘trophy wife’ character, Katrina Barksdale, in Paul Levine’s Solomon vs Lord. When she is accused of murdering her husband during some kinky sex, Miami attorney Steve Solomon wants very much to defend her. There’s a major fee for him if he does. But he’ll need the help of Victoria Lord, a new attorney who’s as opposite to Solomon as it’s possible to be. It’s a very interesting case that gives an inside look at the ‘trophy wife/older husband’ relationship.
‘Trophy wives’ and ‘boy toys’ can bring all sorts of complications into a crime story. That plot point can add character development and suspense, so it’s little wonder we see it in the genre. These are just a few examples. Your turn.
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Del McCoury Band’s Forty Acres and a Fool.