Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cops and Nobles

British detective thrillers, whether in novels, films or on PBS Masterpiece Mystery, are sometimes mystifying to non-Brits in an odd way.

For starts, there are all those acronyms: CID, MI5 MI6, all the letters before the police officers’ names. Does everyone know that MI stands for military intelligence? Or that the CID is Crime Investigation Division? Or that the ranks of police officers ascend from PC or DC (police or detective constable) through DS (detective sergeant) to DCI (detective chief inspector)? Calling a DS a DC might cause offense.

If you are reading, as I am, Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley books, you have the additional problem of figuring out which Lord or Lady is up to whatever mischief, since sometimes the characters’ given names are used and at other times they are called by their titles. Lord Asherton, for instance, is DCI Lynley or simply Asherton, or Tommy to his friends.

Here is the cast of characters for Payment in Blood, the second of George's 19 Inspector Lynley books--very helpful when, on page 300 of some 430, you can't remember who Denton is (he's Lynley's servant.) Of course, you might prefer just to read the book or watch the video and assume that eventually everything will be understandable. But in the interest of de-mystifying some of the roles and titles, I give you the list of Cops and Nobles.

1. DCI Thomas Lynley, Eighth Earl of Asherton.
2. DC Barbara Havers, demoted from DS, Lynley’s partner. Lives with her parents.
3. Lady Helen Clyde, daughter of the Tenth Earl of Hesfield (ongoing love interest).
4. Simon Allcourt St. James, forensic scientist.
5. Deborah Cotter St. James, photographer, his wife, daughter of his valet.
6. Francesca Gerrard, widow, owner of mansion on Loch Achiemore, Scotland.
7. Philip, her late husband, buried on an island in the Loch.
8. Stuart Rintoul, Lord Stinhurst, “Midas of the Theater”, Francesca’s brother.
9. Marguerite, Countess of Stinhurst, his wife.
10. Alec Rintoul, deceased, their son, loved by No. 12.
11. Elizabeth Rintoul, their fortyish daughter.
12. Joy Sinclair, playwright (deceased), sister of No. 13, cousin of No. 19, former lover of No. 16.
13. Irene Sinclair, former actress, previously married to No. 16.
14. Joanna Ellacourt, famous actress, married to No. 15.
15. David Sydeham, her husband and manager.
16. Robert Gabriel, famous actor, formerly married to No. 13, now sleeping with No. 12 and many others.
17. Geoffrey Rintoul (deceased), brother of No. 8, grave discovered in odd place.
18. Jeremy Vinney, journalist, drama critic for the Times.
19. Rhys Davies-Jones, theatrical director, presently lover of No. 3. Prime suspect.
20. Gowan Kilbride, handyman at the mansion of No. 6.
21. Mary Agnes Campbell, maid at No. 6.
22. Hannah Darrow, deceased, subject of a book by No. 12.
23. John Darrow, publican, her husband.
24. Teddy Darrow, their son.

English police: Chief Superintendent Hiller; Superintendent Webberley, Lynley’s superior; DC Raymond Plater (Mildenhall); DC Winston Nkata.

Scottish police: DI Ian Macaskin of the Strathclyde CID; DC Kevin Lonan.

Military Intelligence: William Vassall, Sir Kenneth Willingate, Sir Andrew Higgins.

Servants: Denton, Lynley’s valet. Caroline Shepherd, Lady Helen’s maid. Cotter, valet to St. James (No. 4) and father of Deborah St. James (No. 5).


Susan Jordan said...

Should I read this as a recommendation to read these books? They look intriguing, to say the least. I'm a little surprised at the large cast of characters, though. I'm always mindful of including too many characters in a book I write out of concern for the reader. However, I suppose if you're solving a mystery, you are going to cross paths with many different people.

M. L. Benedict said...

They are indeed intriguing, but how Elizabeth George managed to juggle all those characters and plot lines is beyond me. Get one from the library so you can return it if it's too much work to read. The paradox is that the books are real page-turners.