In praise of Watson, Bess & George, and the ghost of Elvis
Kimberly's July 17 comment reminds me what I can miss by not reading mysteries more frequently.
Well-crafted mystery novels are not just plot-driven; they also exhibit great character studies. These stories portray the main character facing romantic upheaval/potential financial ruin/family issue du jour at the same time he or she investigates the crime. Crisis-juggling not only imitates life, it also furnishes opportunities for the character to evolve--or crumble. Hitherto undisclosed background or personality traits come to light, suggesting that the character may be just as much a riddle as the murder in question. At least, that's what I like to see.
As Kimberly observes, an investigator's spouse, otherworldly second banana, or other sort of companion does enhance the lead character. The associate continually elicits some sort of response. We enjoy the give-and-take and monitor those exchanges for clues about the relationship--also perhaps for encouragement or even insights. Collaboration is a concept emphasized so frequently in the workplace these days. It's heartening to witness scenarios in which patience and cooperation are rewarded with success. It's also fun--nothing wrong with that!
I haven't seen that Sherlock Holmes film yet. The action emphasis sounds risky, but sometimes those artistic gambles pay off. Years ago, I was hooked by a mystery titled Henry James' Midnight Song by Carol DeChellis Hill. Set in turn-of-the-century Vienna, it featured Sigmund Freud, Henry James, and Edith Wharton as primary characters. And it worked!