Crime and thriller fiction is full of fraught relationship dynamics—all the better to ratchet up the tension with. In our latest novel, In Case of Emergency, we explore just such a bond between characters. Here are a handful of other wonderfully complicated alliances that keep the pages turning.
Clarice Starling & Dr. Hannibal Lecter
The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris
Sophisticated, charming, polite to a fault… just don’t let him have you for dinner. When clever, ambitious FBI trainee Starling enlists the help of incarcerated serial murderer Lecter—known not-so-affectionately as “Hannibal the Cannibal”—to aid in an active investigation, the two form a unique bond based on mutual respect that sees them through a veritable rollercoaster of a relationship. Come for the psychological gamesmanship, stay for the emotional tenderness.
Ezekial “Easy” Rawlins & Raymond “Mouse” Alexander
Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley
In 1940’s L.A., newly-jobless war veteran Rawlins decides to take on a P.I. gig to help him swing the mortgage payment on his house. Despite a natural proclivity toward the work, Easy quickly gets in over his head, and his hometown friend, Mouse, travels from Houston to back Easy’s play. As the investigation grows increasingly thornier, the charismatically unhinged Mouse—he of the quick tongue and the even quicker draw—comes perilously close to shooting Easy. But, hey; what’s a little gunplay between friends?
Annie Wilkes & Paul Sheldon
Misery, by Stephen King
When romance novelist Paul Sheldon is involved in a near-fatal car accident while passing through a remote Colorado town, he has the, er, good fortune of being rescued by former nurse and loyal reader Annie Wilkes. As she shepherds him back to health, the obsessive caregiver begins to withhold her patient’s pain medication in order to leverage editorial control of his new manuscript. Paul needs Annie, and Annie needs Paul, in what steadily devolves into the symbiotic relationship from hell. With fans like these…
Korede & Ayoola
My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Sibling rivalry takes myriad forms. Korede, the head nurse at a Nigerian hospital, finds her protective instinct for her younger sister, Ayoola, constantly at odds with her envy and resentment of the beautiful, self-absorbed and carefree woman. Korede herself is fastidiously neat and organized—qualities that come in handy when she’s called upon to help dispose of the body of yet another hapless fellow to have fallen out of favor with the fickle Ayoola. When the women find themselves vying for the affections of the same man, the limits of the term “my sister’s keeper” get tested in tensely compelling ways.
Maurice Hearne & Charlie Redmond
Night Boat to Tangier, by Kevin Barry
Maurice and Charlie are a pair of long in the tooth drug smugglers with a gift for gab and an air of turbulent charisma. Having caught wind of a rumor that Maurice’s estranged daughter, Dilly, is to be passing through, the old friends stake out a ferry terminal in the port of Algeciras in anticipation of the young woman’s arrival. As their conversation turns to reminiscence, we delve into the knotty backstory of the men and begin to understand the origins of the menacing undercurrent of looming volatility that informs their relationship.
Unnamed Narrator & Tyler Durden
Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk
The brutal bromance between Palahniuk’s insomniac ‘everyman’ narrator who feels trapped in his life, and the charismatic, free-spirited Tyler Durden kicks off on a nude beach and dives right into life’s big questions about love, masculinity, and existentialism before descending into a savage secret society. Constantly present in this friendship is the question of identity and trust, culminating in a liver shot of a revelation about how close a space friend and foe can actually occupy. Can you ever really know who someone is, even if you walk a mile in their shoes?
Tom Ripley & Dickie Greenleaf
The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith
When Tom Ripley, a con man blowing in the New York wind takes on a job to lure the elusive Dickie Greenleaf home from Italy in order to take over the family business, he doesn’t count on becoming quite so enamored with the young playboy. From the outset, the bond between the men is fast, furious and fraught. As Tom becomes obsessed with Dickie and his ‘devil-may-care’ lifestyle to the extent of wanting to steal it outright, his creepy codependence leaves Dickie cold and wanting to discard Ripley at the next port. Their disagreement about who is actually entitled to the life of Dickie Greenleaf comes to serious blows, the outcome decided by the business end of a boat oar.
Chief Brody & Matt Hooper
Jaws, by Peter Benchley
In the novel, Jaws, there are as many threats on land as there are in the ocean. After Chief Martin Brody unsuccessfully attempts to close the seaside town of Amity’s beaches following multiple fatal shark attacks, Matt Hooper, a ichthyologist from the local Oceanographic Institution is brought in to help Brody figure out his shark problem. Along with the salty shark hunter, Quint, the men forge a mutually respectful alliance to defeat the toothy killer, but there is more than one shark in the boat by the end. Hooper cuckolds Brody when the chief’s restless wife, Ellen, serves up a post-lunch afternoon delight, and Brody quickly catches a whiff of something fishy. While he desperately needs Hooper for his expertise, the man’s presence quietly torments the chief, stoking his fear of what really lies beneath the seemingly calm waters of his marriage.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
The ultimate tale of being your own worst enemy, Stevenson’s allegorical good-versus-evil novella about the well-respected Dr. Henry Jeckyll and the sinister Edward Hyde is perfectly intertwined with all of the quintessential themes of a problematic interdependent friendship. This murderous gothic tale perfectly demonstrates identity duality, self-transformation, and the grim results that occur from a complete loss of self control. The notion of being ‘your own best friend’ is at the same time too close but utterly out of reach for Jekyll and Hyde, as their sheer inability to separate one from the other makes it impossible to get out of each other’s way, let alone their own.
Sue Trinder & Maud Lilly
Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters
Sue Trinder, an orphan with a checkered past, ventures to the English countryside to win the trust of heiress Maud Lilly in an elaborate plot to convince her to marry Richard ‘Gentleman’ Rivers. River’s is everything but, and plans to have Maud committed and to steal her ample bank account once the pair are married. Meanwhile, Sue unexpectedly finds herself drawn into an intense friendship-turned-romance with Maud, which poses some major internal conflicts. Plagued by deception and ulterior motives, Sue and Maud’s travel through a dizzying game of cat and mouse before arriving at the most important conclusion in thrillers; you can’t play a player, especially if she’s wearing gloves.