The Dead Wives Club: UK Edition

The Dead Wives Club Official Membership Card
Not a card to aspire to.
Some clubs have an exclusive membership list. It takes years or connections or both to get a coveted spot. Then there’s a group like crime fiction’s Dead Wives Club where membership is something to be avoided. And to quell any cries of sexism, women bereft of husbands are welcome, too. It just so happens that widowers currently take up all the slots, at least on the other side of the pond. Because exclusivity is the name of the name, the DWC: UK currently accepts only grieving cops or those who work closely with the police as consultants. From police constables to detective chief superintendants, rank is irrelevant. All that’s required is a deceased spouse. Misery, as history proves, does the rest.

Peter James, Dead Man’s Grip
The missing wives club
1. Brighton Detective Superintendant Roy Grace (created by Peter James)
Last Seen in Dead Man’s Grip (November 2011)

Det. Supt. Grace’s wife, Sandy, isn’t technically dead. But a decade after her disappearance, things aren’t looking good. American readers have only met Grace twice but he’s been pining for Sandy since Dead Simple came out in the UK back in 2005. Yes, he’s in a relationship with fiancée Cleo, who’s pregnant with their child, but Sandy still niggles at the back of his—and the reader’s—mind.

2. Ex-NYPD Detective Charlie Parker (created by John Connolly)
Last Seen in The Burning Soul (September 2011)

Holding dual membership in DWC: UK and DWC: US due to his portrayer’s Irish citizenship, Parker is haunted by the unsolved murder of his wife, Susan, and young daughter, Jennifer. The most supernaturally inclined of the bunch, Parker is literally haunted: he’s plagued by visions throughout the series, even after eventually moving from New York to the supposedly more tranquil Maine.

3. Belfast Det. Insp. Jack Lennon (created by Stuart Neville)
Last Seen in Stolen Souls (October 2011)

If we were splitting hairs, DI Lennon should actually belong to the Dead Ex-Lover and Mother of His Child Club. But the DWC: UK made an exception and allowed him in. His former flame, Marie, is dead at the hands of the IRA, leaving him a single father to seven-year-old Ellen. Add to this a particularly grim series of cases and the already broody Northern Irishman is an excellent fit for the lost spouses club.

Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George
Lyndley goes undercover.
4. Scotland Yard Det. Insp. Thomas Lynley (created by Elizabeth George)
Soon to Be Seen in Believing the Lie (January 2012)

Though Insp. Lynley has been solving crimes since 1988, his unfortunate induction into the DWC: UK came recently—and unexpectedly—in 2005 when his pregnant wife, Lady Helen Clyde, was murdered in With No One As Witness. Her death is an undeniable turning point in the series, as Lynley has spent the past three books sunk deep in mourning and heads into the seventeenth installment as an undercover operative. Not exactly the best place to confront one’s feelings head-on.

5. Forensic Anthropologist Dr. David Hunter (created by Simon Beckett)
Last Seen in The Calling of the Grave (February 2011)

Like Connolly’s Charlie Parker, Dr. Hunter’s life is shattered by the deaths of his wife and young daughter, killed by a drunk driver. He leaves his life in London to start over in rural Norfolk as a run-of-the-mill country doctor, turning his back on dissecting death on a daily basis as a forensic anthropologist. Of course, it’s never that easy and Hunter is soon sucked back into a life of forensics, punctuated by vivid dreams of his dead family.

The Private Patient by PD James
The final appearance of Adam Dagliesh.
6. Scotland Yard Police Commander Adam Dalgliesh (created by P.D. James)
Last Seen in The Private Patient (November 2008)

An anomaly in the DWC: UK, Dalgliesh is the only one whose wife died—in childbirth, no less—before his series began (nearly half a century ago with 1962’s Cover Her Face). Despite rising through the ranks during his professional career at New Scotland Yard, Dalgliesh’s emotional growth is all but stymied by his loss. Even when he musters the courage to propose to Deborah in 1967’s Unnatural Causes, it’s too late. She’s already moved on. It’s not for another 41 years (in publication time) that he finally finds another companion in Cambridge lecturer Emma. Somehow it’s fitting that their wedding coincides with James’s avowed last book in the series.


Jordan Foster grew up in a mystery bookstore in Portland, Oregon. She has a MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia University, which she’s slowly paying off by writing about crime fiction for Publishers Weekly and Bookish. She’s back in Portland, where it’s nice and rainy and there are endless places to stash bodies. She tweets @jordanfoster13.

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