The Dead Wives Club: US Edition

Dead Wives Club membership card
One card for both sides of the pond.
The Yanks refused to be outdone, and thus the American chapter of the Dead Wives Club was born. Here in the Land of Opportunity, membership is not denied to women, and two widows take their places among the grieving husbands. Just like its British counterpart, the DWC: US limits its membership to law enforcement officials and consultants who’ve lost a spouse. As you’ll see, the club is—unfortunately—not hurting for members. 

1. 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 moving to the supposedly more tranquil Maine, though perhaps he should have consulted Maine native (and expert on things that go bump in the night) Stephen King before moving to the Pine Tree State.

2. Texas Ranger and Profiler Sarah Armstrong (created by Kathryn Casey)
Last Seen in The Killing Storm (October 2010)

A recently widowed single mother—her fellow Ranger husband, Bill, died in a car accident—Armstrong must juggle not only the tough cases but the pressures of being one of only two female Texas Rangers. Unlike so many of her UK counterparts who’ve lost children as well as wives, Armstrong must remain strong for her daughter, Maggie.

Fire and Ice by J.A. Jance
DWC member meet-up
3. Sheriff Joanna Brady (created by J.A. Jance)
Last seen in Fire and Ice (July 2009)

Once the content wife of the Deputy Sheriff of their small Arizona town, Brady’s life is turned upside down when her husband is murdered. The only upside is that Brady takes over the lawman duties in the family, which she juggles with raising their young daughter. She even crosses paths, in Fire and Ice, with Jance’s longtime Seattle-based sleuth and fellow member:

4. Detective J.P. “Beau” Beaumont (also created by J.A. Jance)
Last seen in Betrayal of Trust (July 2011)

Though Beaumont, a homicide detective, and Brady don’t cross paths until late in their respective series, they both carry the heavy burden of a dead spouse. Of course, Beaumont’s second wife, Ann Corley, turned out to be a vigilante killer of child abusers but her death has affected him deeply. Like so many fictional cops, widowed or otherwise, Beaumont long ago turned to the bottle and is a recovering alcoholic.

5. Sheriff Walt Longmire (created by Craig Johnson)
Last seen in Hell Is Empty (June 2011)

Big, gruff Wyoming lawmen wouldn’t seem like the type to be sunk by grief but Absaroka County Sheriff Longmire is still mourning his wife, Martha, three years after her death when Johnson’s series begins with The Cold Dish (2004). It doesn’t help that his daughter, Cady, is across the country. Luckily, there are murders to solve and friends like Henry Standing Bear and Deputy Victoria “Vic” Moretti by his side.

6. P.I. Cork O’Connor (created by William Kent Krueger)
Last seen in Northwest Angle (August 2011)

Like Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley, O’Connor is an unexpectedly recent addition to the DWC. In Heaven’s Keep, the ninth installment of the rural Minnesota-based books, O’Connor’s lawyer wife, Jo, is killed in the aftermath of a plane crash in the Rockies, after being a key character since the series began. An ex-cop, ex-sheriff and now a widower, O’Connor must pull himself together for his children, deciding to throw his hat back into the detecting business as a PI.

A man, a woman, a dead spouse.
7. Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne (created by Julia Spencer-Fleming)
Last seen in One Was a Soldier (April 2011)

Though Spencer-Fleming’s series might predominantly focus on Reverend (and National Guard helicopter pilot) Clare Fergusson and the goings on in Millers Kill, New York, it’s Clare’s slow-burning relationship with Russ that drives each book. When Russ’s wife (they’re separated) is found murdered in All Mortal Flesh (2006), it’s the point of no return for the series, and the characters. While Clare and Russ move closer together (spoiler: in One Was a Soldier, they’re quite cozy), the shadow of Linda’s death continues to haunt them.

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.


  1. LauraT

    Another one to add to your list – Dave Robicheaux (James Lee Burke) has lost two wives over the course of the series.

  2. Jordan Foster

    That’s the problem with making these lists- I always forget someone important! Thanks for adding Burke and Robicheaux to the roster. I’ll make sure Dave gets his membership card soon.

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