The Lonely Detective

Why is it that single, moody people make the best murder mystery detectives? All of my favorites are unattached: Kinsey Millhone, Harry Bosch, Archy McNally, Nero Wolfe and his investigator Archie Goodwin, Lady Emily Ashton. I’ll grant you they are not all moody. But Kinsey Millhone certainly is. Throughout the twenty-two books she is divorced and testy. She has no lasting relationships, save for Henry, her 80-year-old neighbor whom she has claims she could fall for, if he wasn’t so much older.

Bosch is plenty lonely. Sullen. Searching for that missing element. The few times he finds his heart in a romance are certainly highlights of his life, but his relationships are more of the flare-ups variety than steady burning love.

Mystery detective: lonely heart?

Murder mysteries: single is better?

Raymond Chandler, creator of detective Philip Marlowe, said “A really good detective never gets married.”

Is there something about the single life, the failed relationships, that makes a person better at solving murder mysteries? Could it be keener instincts? Is there something about having one’s senses tuned to the possibility of love that sharpens one’s intellect and one’s intuition, which translates exceptional sleuthing?

Or is it the opposite. Perhaps the odd hours of detective work, running down clues wherever and whenever they lead are deterrents to a stable relationship?

In 1928 S.S. Van Dine, author of popular detective novels in the 1920s and 1930s featuring Phillo Vance, published his “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories.” His rule number three? “There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.”

Whatever the reason for my favorite detective’s lonely romantic lives, their exploits sure make for good reading. I’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below.

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About Christian Belz

Christian Belz has been a practicing architect in Metro Detroit for 28 years, and is a member of Detroit Working Writers. He won the Grand Prize in Aquarius Press's 2011 Bright Harvest Prize for his short story "Chambers." His fiction has appeared in Writers' Journal, The Story Teller Magazine, and Wicked East Press's anthology: "Short Sips, Coffee House Flash Fiction Collection 2." He is currently seeking publication of his first two murder mysteries, featuring architect sleuth Ken Knoll.
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