Heyer set her historical novels in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and she was an acknowledged expert on the manners, speech and customs of those times. However, the attitudes she portrayed regarding women were often those of the early 20th Century.
So how was the wife of the professional police detective portrayed in most Golden Age Police Procedurals? On the whole, she was hardly portrayed at all. She was mentioned as part of his background but played no part in the intellectual or emotional process that leads to the resolution of the case.
loving correspondence with him when he was away from home. Cromwell looked at Fothergill’s dirty tobacco-stained fingers with their cruel nails and felt like socking the postman on the jaw for daring to handle the precious letter at all.’ (Death Drops the Pilot, 1955.)’
There is another category of detectives’ wives, those who marry a romantic detective hero. These women usually meet their husbands in the course of an investigation or adventure. The hero detective as portrayed by Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham have certain traits in common. Wimsey, Alleyn and Campion are all younger scions of aristocratic houses, with the advantages of intelligence, education, skill in moving in society and the connections to do so.
Flame-haired and forceful, Amanda is a successful engineer, and her marriage to Campion is a partnership of equals. Allingham was very good at thinking outside the box.
professional novelist, but she is also settled into the domestic role, although she has taken up patchwork rather than knitting. Alleyn and Agatha Troy were brought together by crime, when a murder takes place in Troy’s art studio in Artists in Crime (1938) and they had several detective adventures together during their married life, many of which were initiated by Troy’s profession – who would think that being a successful artist was so dangerous? Despite her habit of discovering violent crime, Troy tends to revert to the nurturing role, leaving Alleyn to investigate. Alleyn makes his attitude to his wife’s involvement in detection very clear in A Clutch of Constables (1968): ‘Those of you who are married will understand my position. In the Force our wives are not called upon to serve in James-Bondage and I imagine most of you would agree that any notion of their
involvement in our work would be outlandish, ludicrous and extremely unpalatable.’
From this adventurous starting point to domesticity is a major change in itself, but as Olive becomes a harried housewife, obsessed by rationing, it is hard to tell if it is marriage or World War that has wrought the change. Certainly, Bobby is never an overbearing husband
‘Olive... said, “That’s the week’s meat ration I got today. Will you have it all now, or shall we leave some for tomorrow?”
“Well, anyhow,” Bobby said, “today is here and now, and let tomorrow take care of itself.”