Love is an incredibly powerful emotion. So it’s no surprise that it’s a big motivating force in crime fiction. It sends broken criminals and lawmen on quests for redemption, and it can lead upstanding citizens on obsessive, self-destructive journeys. Sometimes, it can even do both. It also creates romantic pairings between some fascinating characters.
In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I’d take a look at some of my favorite couples from crime fiction in several different mediums. I’ll talk a little bit about the pairing, the appeal, and—if it was featured in multiple stories—some good ones to check out. That way you can celebrate in your preferred medium of choice with some tales about the power of love and how it motivates some compelling criminals, antiheroes, and vigilantes.
Couple: Lucas Hood & Carrie Hopewell/Anna
Show: Cinemax’s Banshee (2013-2016)
If you missed Cinemax’s amazing crime/action hybrid show Banshee and you enjoy fast paced, character centric tales about big trouble in small towns, do yourself a favor and rectify that now.
Part of what made Banshee so appealing to me was the relationship between two of its main characters. One is a mysterious ex-thief who gets out of prison and assumes the identity of the titular town’s new sheriff, Lucas Hood. Part of the reason he’s come town is to find the woman he served time for: ex-lover and partner in crime Anastasia, who is living a quiet life in Banshee as Carrie Hopewell, a married women with kids.
The love that Hood feels for Carrie and how she wrestles with their complicated romantic past led to some of Banshee’s most powerful, exciting, and just plain cool moments. My favorite is probably the church shootout that Hood and Carrie get into in the Season 2 finale. The action, the looks the characters give each other during those scenes, and the background music all combine to make, in my opinion, one of the most fun and romantic moments on television.
Couple: Brendan & Emily
Movie: Brick (2005)
Before 2017 is over, writer/director Rian Johnson will be best known for his work on Star Wars: Episode VII – The Last Jedi, but I first became aware of him via his first full-length film: the brilliant high school noir movie, Brick.
Plotwise, Brick is essentially Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest, but what makes it unique and interesting is the high school setting and the characters driving everything. Brendan (Joseph Gordon Levitt) takes a journey into the underworld of high school cliques to find out what happened to his missing ex-girlfriend, Emily. His investigation is fueled by the intense feelings he still harbors for Emily, and the anger he feels at losing her brings him into the orbit of murderous thugs and a drug ring that includes rich classmates and a very eccentric kingpin.
So while we don’t get to see much of them interacting in Brick, Brendan and Emily’s relationship is the driving force of the powerful and haunting film.
Couple: Louis and Angel
Featured in: John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series
It is possible to live a life of crime and have a relatively stable relationship. Just ask semi-retired hitman Louis and his lover, ex-thief Angel. They're two of the most prominent supporting characters in writer John Connolly’s series of crime/horror novels starring ex-cop turned private detective, Charlie Parker.
What makes Angel and Louis so great is that they're the perfect odd couple who complete each other. Louis is an immaculately-dressed, African-American assassin, while Angel is a bit more slovenly. They bicker like an old married couple, too. But whenever Parker gets into a situation he can't handle, they're there for him and ready to go to war at a moment's notice.
Angel and Louis provide moments of comic relief and badass action in all of the Charlie Parker novels, but they really step into the spotlight with 2008's The Reapers, the bulk of which is told from their point of view.
Couple: Batman & Catwoman
Featured in: Several of DC Comics’ Batman titles
In every incarnation of Batman, Catwoman has figured prominently as a femme fatale, taunting him and tempting him with romantic desires. In recent years, though, DC's Batman comics have allowed them to become more than that. The two have actually been allowed to act on their desires, and a haunting but ultimately doomed romantic relationship has formed.
Readers curious to see what that relationship looks like really need to pick up issues #14-15 of the most recent volume of Batman by writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads—a poignant and beautiful tale that chronicles what happens between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle on the night before he's supposed to take her to jail. The issues are available in your local comic shop or digitally.