Embarking on reading a series of books––particularly a fairly long series, such as the 46 novels, which comprise the George Gently stories by Alan Hunter––involves a considerable investment of time, if not energy, and so it is not surprising if the reader becomes to some degree emotionally entwined with the characters. Whether this is a healthy state of affairs probably depends on the nature of the attachment. I had thought that my relationship with George Gently was perfectly wholesome, but now I am beginning to have doubts. Something has come between our previously shared existence of easy equanimity––two things, in fact; two things that have introduced a note of disquiet into our otherwise peaceful symbiosis. Two things; one by the name of Brenda Merryn, the other by Gabrielle Orbec.
Brenda first appears as a suspect in Gently with the Ladies, and is Gently’s girlfriend by Gently North-West. Gabrielle first meets Gently in The Honfleur Decision, and is his wife by the end of Gabrielle’s Way. Happily so, I might add.
Given my long-standing friendship with Gently––after 46 novels, I don’t think it is inappropriate to talk in these terms––I should be pleased for the man; pleased that he has discovered a bit of convivial female companionship to offset the pressures of so many arduous murder cases to investigate. But I find that I am not.
What is my objection? Am I worried that between his crime fighting and his new relationship, he won’t have time for me? Perhaps, just a little. Do I find myself feeling a little bit jealous first of Gently’s girlfriend, and then later his wife? Jealous? I’m not sure. If not jealous, perhaps frustrated. Trying to analyse the feeling objectively, it is more like the sensation experienced when you see talent go to waste. For me, both Brenda and Gabrielle represent distractions from Gently’s raison d’être, which is investigating, interrogating, and solving crimes. Although, rationally, I can see that they are introduced as secondary characters to ‘round’ the personality of Gently, they do so in a way that I find clashes with my pre-conceptions. I guess I prefer my Gently to remain ‘square’, so that he neatly fits into the box I have constructed for him.
However, I don’t want my dislike of Brenda and Gabrielle to irrevocably come between my friendship with Gently. I’ve seen too many relationships disintegrate like this and, in the end, I know that if it comes down to a simple choice between us, he will choose them over me.
So, I am trying to be patient with Brenda and Gabrielle; attempting to see their positive attributes; looking upon them more sympathetically. It is not easy but, for George, I am prepared to give this ménage à trois between the three of us a chance.
© Fergus Longfellow
Fergus Longfellow blurs the lines between fantasy and reality.