Today we turn our magnifying glass on great crime-fighting teams. With these detective duos, each partner balances the other’s unique strengths and weaknesses as they work together to catch the bad guys. We celebrate the Sherlocks and the Watsons—because even if great detectives run the show, we all know they would be lost without their sidekicks.
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Sherlock Holmes and his trusty friend, Dr. Watson, may be the most famous detectives in literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story was published in 1887 and within a few years, Holmes became a sensation. The character was known for his astute deductive reasoning, baffling disguises, and an almost magical ability to find hidden clues. His adventures were ostensibly recorded by his good friend, Dr. Watson—who also served as lookout, accomplice, messenger, and all-around right-hand man. After Doyle published the last Holmes mysteries in 1927, other authors created their own variations on Holmes and Watson: Donald Thomas, being one of the best Holmesian writers today. His collection, Sherlock Holmes and the Ghosts of Bly, stays faithful to the standards of deduction we’ve come to expect from the great sleuth.
J. Robert Janes created an especially unique detective couple: Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler, two policemen, one French (St-Cyr), the other German (Kohler), who work in France during the Nazi occupation of World War II and manage to forge an unlikely friendship in a volatile, divided country. Their mystery series, which begins with Mayhem, has just reached its 16th book, Clandestine.
Also withstanding the test of time are Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin: Author Rex Stout began writing about Wolfe and Goodwin in the 1930s during Prohibition. Widely dubbed an armchair detective, Wolfe is most definitely a genius—he’s just eccentric and lazy. Comfortable in his NYC brownstone, he indulges in lavish meals, tends to his orchids, and solves cases—though it’s Goodwin, his wisecracking assistant with a steel-trap memory, who is actually doing all the footwork. He also narrates their stories. In the 1980s, Robert Goldsborough took on the Wolfe/Goodwin legacy. His most recent novel, Archie Meets Nero Wolfe, is a prequel, describing Goodwin’s early days in the Big Apple and how he first connected with the brilliant recluse.
Another duo to bark about comes from a series of mysteries written by David Handler: Stewart Hoag and Lulu, his faithful basset hound who stays by his side no matter how deadly the situation. A ghostwriter by trade, Hoag deals with prickly, high-strung artsy types and repeatedly finds himself unraveling whodunits. In Handler’s clever style, Hoag and Lulu keep the guesswork and the giggles going from the get-go with The Man Who Died Laughing.
Though Handler made good use of “man’s best friend,” Charlotte MacLeod gives new meaning to the phrase. Her mystery series revolves around two detectives who are not just partners but husband and wife. Having met during a murder investigation, Sarah Keating and Max Bittershorn continue matching wits through art heists, disappearances, and untimely deaths. And then there are the in-laws: Sarah comes from a venerable New England family whose members feud furiously and hilariously. The Family Vault is an excellent place to start reading about this double act.
Keeping with married detectives, Anne Perry made a splash with her novel The Cater Street Hangman, a serial-killer mystery set in Victorian England. Inspector Pitt and Charlotte Ellison meet while on a case, and it isn’t long before they combine forces—and fall in love. As the series unfolds, Thomas and Charlotte Pitt scour everything from dark slums to posh drawing rooms in an effort clean the filth from London’s streets.
With partnerships like these, we have a hunch you may just decide that two great detectives are far better than one.