Wednesday, February 22, 2012


With a little help from my friends...

I went searching my bookshelves the other day for a reference book from my bookselling days. I can't even remember the title, something about Sleuths and Sidekicks, which shows I haven't made much use of it lately. But I used to in the days when customers were often asking such skill-testing questions. I can't find it, although I do have a good selection of reference books on my shelf.

It's a wonderfully informative book. Sidekicks are so important in the detective genre, be the main sleuths amateurs or professionals, that there is indeed an entire large book dedicated to them.

It's not often you find the 'lone warrior' doing battle with the bad guys. (Most often found in thrillers.) Sidekicks add another dimension to the main character and can subtly focus on characteristics of said sleuth. They are also sounding boards for various theories and can be sure to lend a hand or a flashlight in those late night searches. They can provide some comic relief or perhaps, a saner more grounded approach when it's needed. What is Sherlock without his Watson after all?

They are recurring characters because they are part of the fabric of the series. And as such, some have even garnered their own fan clubs. Mary Jane Maffini has created such a sidekick. He's Alvin, the thorn-in-the-side assistant to her lawyer-sleuth Camilla McPhee. Imagine, a fan club!

And sometimes, the sidekick goes on to become the star of his or her own series. That happens more often in TV though.

Imagine your favourite series without the sidekick. Can't be done. Not with the more traditional mystery or detective story. They're part of the fabric of life and we want our characters and plots to wrap the reader in a real world. That means one with friends and sidekicks, often one and the same.

As I said, I can't find that great reference book. So if I loaned it to you, could I please have it back?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase
A Killer Read coming April, 2012
from Berkley Prime Crime