In Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, successful American business magnate Samuel Ratchett is making a journey across Europe on the famous Orient Express train. When Ratchett learns that Hercule Poirot is on the same train, he makes an unusual proposal. He wants to hire Poirot as a sort of bodyguard, since he feels threatened. Poirot refuses, angering Ratchett. It turns out Ratchett was right to be concerned, though, because he’s stabbed to death the next night. The only possible suspects are the other passengers in the first-class carriage, and Poirot works to find out who the killer is.
Perhaps we can’t easily imagine Poirot in the role of bodyguard, but there are plenty of people who work in that capacity, in real life as well as crime fiction. They’re professionals, but at the same time, they aren’t law enforcement officers or PIs. So, they fill interesting roles, and they can be interesting characters. And situations that call for bodyguards can add real tension to a story.
In Robert Colby’s novella No Experience Necessary, we are introduced to Glenn Hadlock. He’s recently been released from prison, so his job choices are limited. Then, he sees an advertisement that catches his attention. Victor Scofield is looking for a bodyguard/chauffer for his wife, Eileen. Hadlock decides to apply, and is granted an interview. He learns that Scofield is permanently disabled, and can’t leave his room. But, he says, he doesn’t want to impose the same limitations on Eileen. So, he’s decided to hire someone to escort her. Hadlock gets the job, and at first, everything goes well. The pay is good, he gets a free apartment in the Scofield mansion, and Eileen is pleasant company. But it’s not long before Hadlock discovers that this job has a lot of hidden dangers…
There are plenty of dangers for bodyguard Martin Lemmer, too, whom we meet in Deon Meyers’ Blood Safari. He works for a Cape Town private security firm called Body Armour, and he’s had his share of risky experiences. But he gets in much deeper than he thought when Emma Le Roux hires him to escort her from Cape Town to the Lowveld. She’s following up on a lead that could help her locate her brother, Jacobus. She’d thought he was killed years ago in a skirmish with poachers, while he was working at Kruger National Park. It turns out, though, that he may very well still be alive. If so, she wants to find him. Lemmer goes with her, and soon learns that some extremely dangerous people are determined not to let anyone find out the truth about Jacobus Le Roux. Lemmer’s going to need all of his skills if he’s going to keep himself and his client alive.
In Jassy Mackenzie’s Random Violence, we are introduced to Jade de Jong. Ten years before the events of the novel, she left her native Johannesburg when her police-detective father was killed. She went to the UK, where she spent several years working in private security and bodyguarding. Since then, she’s become a PI. So, she’s well able to take care of herself. But even she’s not prepared for what awaits her when she goes back to Johannesburg. Annette Botha has been killed in what looks like a carjacking gone wrong. But then, there’s another murder. And another. The three deaths don’t seem on the surface to be linked, but there are little pieces of evidence that they might be. Police Superintendent David Patel, who was a friend of de Jong’s father, is glad she’s back in town, and grateful for her help in the investigations. And, in the end, Patel and de Jong find that the three murders are, indeed, linked, in a way they hadn’t imagined.
When key police witnesses are believed to be in danger, they’re often provided ‘safe’ accommodations and bodyguard protection. That’s what happens in T.J. Cooke’s Kiss and Tell. In that novel, London attorney Jill Shadow becomes involved in a web of drugs trafficking, high-level corruption, and murder when she gets an unusual request. Bella Kiss has been arrested at Heathrow Airport on suspicion of drugs smuggling. She doesn’t deny the charges, but won’t say anything about who paid/coerced her to carry the drugs. And Shadow’s been asked to do what she can to defend the young woman. It’s clear that Bella is afraid for her life, and Shadow wants to help her. But it’s not going to be easy, since this client isn’t saying anything. Bit by bit, and after a murder, Shadow comes closer to the truth, and it gets her into grave danger – so grave that she has to be taken to a safe house. There’s she’s provided with a bodyguard/procurer called Ralph, who is her only link to the outside world. And we see how important that protection becomes when some powerful and nasty people target Shadow.
And then there’s Peter James’ Not Dead Yet, which in part tells the story of superstar Gaia Lafayette. A native of Brighton, she’s returning from the US to her home town to do a film. There’s already been at least one attempt on her life, so her personal security is a major issue. She has an entourage that includes personal bodyguards, but her representatives want to be assured of her safety during her stay at Brighton. So, Superintendent Roy Grace is told that the local police will need to make the star’s safety a priority. This isn’t good news for Grace, who’s already dealing with a bizarre murder. But the authorities don’t want there to be any questions about the town’s willingness to protect visitors. So, the word comes down that Grace will have to manage as best he can. And it’s interesting to see the relationship between the police who are supposed to protect the visitors, and the personal bodyguards who have the same charge.
Bodyguards have a unique perspective on security and on their charges. And they certainly have challenging, sometimes dangerous, jobs. That can make for an interesting layer of suspense and character development in a crime novel. Which ones have stayed with you?
*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Robyn Hitchcock.