Not long ago, I had a really interesting comment exchange with Bill Selnes, who blogs at Mysteries and More From Saskatchewan (by the way, if you’re not following his fine crime fiction blog, you’re missing out). The topic was fictional police detectives who were exiled from their departments. Bill suggested that there are also exiled detectives who are called out of that exile and asked to investigate (or help investigate) a case. He’s right, there are. And the reactions they get from other characters can add to a story.
In Giorgio Scerbanenco’s A Private Venus, we are introduced to Dr. Duca Lamberti. Admittedly, he’s not a police detective, but he has been exiled – to prison. He was arrested and convicted in a case of euthanasia, and he has recently been released from prison. He is approached by a wealthy Milanese engineer, Pietro Auseri, for an unusual purpose. Auseri is concerned about his son, Davide, who has been suffering from depression and drinking heavily. Even a few stints in treatment facilities haven’t helped him. Auseri wants Lamberti to work with Davide and see if he can help the young man recover his mental health. Lamberti isn’t quite sure what he can do about it, but he agrees. As he works with Davide, he discovers the reason for his patient’s depression and drinking: Davide believes himself responsible for the death of Alberta Radelli a year earlier. He had met her casually, and on impulse, invited her for a drive and a day trip to Florence. After their adventure, Alberta had begged him to take her with him back to Milan, threatening suicide when he refused. Her body was found not long afterwards, and Davide believes she killed herself because of him. Lamberti sees that the only way he can help the young man is to find out what really happened to Alberta Radelli. So he decides to do just that. Interestingly, although the Auseries know that Lamberti was in prison, and why, they don’t treat him with suspicion or mistrust; they accept his help.
When we first meet him (in Gorky Park), Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko is a Moscow homicide detective in the years just before the breakup of the Soviet Union. He’s good at what he does, and he doesn’t let position or status within the Party stop him. That proves to be dangerous. In fact, as a result of the events in Gorky Park, he is exiled to a Soviet fish processing ship in Polar Star. While he’s on board the ship, there’s a death that turns out to be a murder; the body of Zina Patiashvili is pulled in with the day’s catch. Renko has investigative experience, so he’s asked to look into the matter. He’s very reluctant at first, but eventually is persuaded. It turns out that the victim was involved in a smuggling ring with connections to some very dangerous people. That doesn’t stop Renko, though, and his work on this case gets him called back to Moscow in Red Square.
Peter Lovesey’s The Last Detective: Introducing Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond is the first in his series about Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond of the Avon and Somerset Police. In this novel, we learn that Diamond has gotten in serious trouble because of the fallout from an earlier case. Still, he and his assistant, John Wigfull, take the case when the body of former TV actress Geraldine ‘Gerry’ Jackman is found in Chew Valley Lake, near Bristol. There are several suspects in the murder, including the victim’s husband, Gregory, and a friend of his, Dana Didrikson. An incident in this investigation leads Diamond to quit the police force, rather than be consigned to desk duty. But he continues his investigation, and finds out who killed Gerry Jackson. Two books later (in The Summons), Diamond returns to the police when John Mountjoy, who’s in prison for murder, abducts the chief constable’s daughter. He’s always maintained his innocence and now threatens to kill his hostage unless Diamond finds out who the real killer is. Mountjoy insists on working only with Diamond, since Diamond was the cop who sent him to prison. Diamond isn’t exactly welcomed back with open arms, but the police know that they need him and his expertise.
Sharon Bolton’s A Dark and Twisted Tide features her protagonist, Lacey Flint. In earlier books in the series, Flint is in the Homicide Unit of the London police. But events in Like This Forever (AKA Lost) have convinced her to leave that unit and join the Marine Unit. In this case, she’s exiled herself, as you might say. She’s hoping that she’ll be safer and much less stressed with her new task of warning boaters of unsafe conditions, checking licenses, and so on. Things don’t work out that way, though. One morning, she’s taking a swim in the Thames when she discovers the body of a young woman. It turns out to be a homicide, and it looks very much as though the killer wanted her to find the body. This means that Flint herself could be a target. The discovery of a murder means the Met is involved, so Flint works with her former teammates to find out who the victim is, and then who the killer is. It’s a little awkward as professional reunions go, but together, she and her teammates learn the truth.
There’s also Paul Thomas’ Death on Demand. Five years before the events of this novel, Auckland cop Tito Ihaka accused wealthy and influential Christopher Lilywhite of arranging for the murder of his (Lilywhite’s) wife. There wasn’t a whole lot of evidence to support Ihaka’s claim, but he always believed it. For that, he was demoted and exiled to the small town of Wairarapa. Now, Lilywhite wants to speak to Ihaka face to face. So, Ihaka is summoned back to Auckland. When the two men meet, Lilywhite tells Ihaka that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and wants to confess that he did, in fact, arrange to have his wife killed. Now it seems that the killer he hired is going after other victims. So Ihaka starts on the trail of a very ruthless murderer.
Sometimes, exiled fictional cops stay away for years, even for the rest of their lives. Other times, though, they are called back in when a case requires their knowledge or expertise. Which ones have stayed with you?
Thanks, Bill, for the inspiration!
*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Van McCoy, and recorded by Lesley Gore.