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6 authors pick the best detective duos

Would Mikael Blomkvist be able to crack the case without Lisbeth Salander? Would Inspector Lynley be able to catch the killer without Sergeant Havers? And where would Sherlock Holmes be without Doctor Watson?

Crime fiction is littered with dynamic duos whose relationships are often as compelling as the crime they’re trying to solve. Which is why we asked some of our favourite authors to pick the best detective duos around – and needless to say, they didn’t disappoint!

Cara Hunter, author of The Whole TruthCara Hunter, author of The Whole Truth:

We all love a detective double act – from Holmes and Watson, to Morse and Lewis, via Cagney and Lacey, and Stabler and Benson; not to mention that fabulous pairing of Hardy and Miller in Broadchurch, which helped turn Olivia Colman into a national treasure. It’s darn hard to pick a preferred pair, but if you put a gun to my head, I’d go for Reggie Wexford and Mike Burden, in the late great Ruth Rendell’s long-running series (23 books in all!), who were memorably, and sometimes poignantly, brought to life on screen by George Baker and Christopher Ravenscroft.

Tim Weaver, author of Missing PiecesTim Weaver, author of Missing Pieces:

John Connolly’s Charlie Parker and Angel/Louis. Actually, this is more of a detective trio, given that Angel and Louis come as a pair, but in Connolly’s supernatural-crime series, when private investigator Parker is struggling to solve a case by himself – or he just needs a sharp-suited (Louis) or shambolically-dressed (Angel) helping hand to bend (and often break) the rules – Angel and Louis are who he calls on. I absolutely love the early Parker books (Dark Hollow is one of my top 10 favourite novels, ever) – they’re beautifully-written gothic thrillers with some of the best villains in crime fiction – and the funny, strangely sweet and always-violent relationship that exists between Parker and his friends are at the very core of what makes those novels tick.

Abir Mukherjee, author of Death in the EastAbir Mukherjee, author of Death in the East:

I’d have to start with Poirot and Hastings – I grew up reading the Agatha Christie novels and watching the TV series – and another favourite would have to be Rebus and Siobhan, Ian Rankin’s detective duo. It’s actually quite hard to think of duos these days as much as single characters, but those would be the main ones I really enjoy.

Christopher Fowler, author of Bryant and May: Oranges and LemonsChristopher Fowler, author of Bryant and May: Oranges and Lemons:

I felt as if I could not be surprised by any combination of detective duo until I found Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway. Two coppers investigate a shooting from a phantom car, but nothing beyond that is certain. None of the rules of detective fiction are obeyed; nothing is explained, nothing resolved, and was there even a murder? The pair keep transforming kaleidoscopically along with the time and place, so we must decide who or what to believe. Eight years after it was first published, the time may finally be right for Hawthorn and Child. It’s too shocking and wrong-footing to be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s utterly unique.

Gytha Lodge, author of Lie Beside MeGytha Lodge, author of Lie Beside Me:

I recently chose Ed Exley as my favourite fictional detective, and felt that I should come up with a different series of books for my favourite detective duo. But after lots of pondering, I decided that (for the moment at least) I can’t look past the combination of Exley and White in LA Confidential. Bud White is a straightforward, irascible, dogged and punch-happy detective of the old school, and that makes him the perfect foil for Ed Exley in all his gloriously selfish ambition and cunning. Even more satisfying is the way the two of them start out as all-out enemies, only to end up allies. The combination is a powerful one, and the result is Exley and White busting open a massive, corrupt operation run by another cop.

Robert Goddard, author of The Fine Art of Invisible DetectionRobert Goddard, author of The Fine Art of Invisible Detection:

My favourite detective duo has to be the pair I first met as a child in the pages of Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin: the incomparably incompetent Thomson and Thompson, forever following the wrong clue, arresting the wrong suspect and generally getting the wrong end of the stick. They look like identical twins (distinguishable only by a minor difference in their moustaches) and dress identically as well in trademark black suits and bowler hats, although the different spelling of their surnames suggests they are in fact unrelated. Oddly, despite their dismal track record, they’re repeatedly assigned to the most demanding cases. Hergé – who claimed to have modelled Thomson and Thompson on his identical twin father and uncle – had a lot of fun with them and so did I. (In fact, I still do, as apparently does our prime minister.) To be fair, they do display one attribute vital to successful detection: stubbornness. They never give up – even when Tintin begs them to.

Who are your favourite detective duos? Let us know in the comments below!

2 Comments

    Some great pairings here but I would also like to include
    Reginald Hill’s Andrew Dalziel and Peter Pascoe.
    Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar and Windsor Horne Lockwood III
    Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole and Joe Pike
    And
    Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs

    It has to be Bryant and May for me. Totally unique!

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