Is Love Always a Factor?

I don’t write about love, but it manages to sneak into my novels. Maybe it’s because love is such a fundamental emotion. To investigate this idea, I looked at some novels about rock-hard P.I.s to see if they, too, included entanglements of amore. Here’s what I found:

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.

Big Sleep ChandlerThis novel wraps the love story between Owen Taylor, the chauffeur, and the beautiful heiress Carmen Sternwood, into a plot that involves pornography, homosexuality, blackmail, and several bodies. When beleaguered P.I Phillip Marlow believes he has wrapped up the case, a loose thread brings him into more danger with mob wife Mona.  Marlow falls hard for Mona before he finds the real killer, and works a tenuous peace. Bullets may fly, but this novel is about love gone wrong.







A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton.


Tough-gal P.I. Kinsey Milhone takes on a cold case from Nikki Fife. Nikki claims she didn’t kill her husband, but did time for the crime anyway. Hunky Detective Con Dolan provides information that leads Kinsey to suspect Charlie Scorsoni. The fact that Kinsey sleeps with Charlie has nothing to do with her ability to hunt down the truth and prove he is the killer. With multiple murders, and some blackmail thrown in, this novel is about finding the truth in spite of love.






A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane.


Drink Before War

P.I.s Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro swim in the sewer of Boston politics while looking for missing documents and the cleaning woman who allegedly stole them. While the mystery has nothing to do with love, the sparks between Patrick and Angie, who is an intelligent and beautiful woman with an abusive husband, leave us wanting more.






Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky.

indemnity only

V.I. Warshawski loves many things, including cashmere sweaters and Italian shoes. In Indemnity Only, P.I. V.I. takes on a case of a missing woman who loves a rich young man. When the girlfriend disappears, the man blames his disapproving father. Daddy hires V.I. to vindicate him and find the girlfriend. Love is at the core of this tale of murder, intrigue, and powerful Chicago unions, despite all the action.






Love is an important part of all of these “tough guy and gal” novels, either centrally, or as a side-line. Perhaps we’ll visit more gritty mysteries in future posts, or perhaps love in sci-fi novels? Until then, what are your favorites?



A retired engineer, Ursula Wong writes about strong women. Her award-winning debut novel, Purple Trees, and her second novel, Amber Wolf, portray women struggling against impossible odds to claim the life they deserve. Signup for her popular Reaching Readers blog on her website:



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