I have a lot of favourite side characters in film and television, particularly Scandinavian crime series, but do I have a favourite side character in a novel?
I really like the brash, but family-minded and a bit impulsive, Martinsson, who often goes off half-cocked, in the Kurt Wallander (Henning Mankell’s) novels, but has my image been bolstered by the tele-series made from these books?
On second thoughts, I could take the easy road and pick Camilla Lackberg’s infamous protagonist, Patrik Hedstrom, whose partner, and later wife, is just as involved in solving the crimes, as he is. It is difficult to tell who has the more significant role. Patrik’s wife Erica, has a habit of poking her nose into each and every crime which makes her the main character, but her husband is important no. 2.
But do I like this Hedstrom character?
Frankly: NO! Hedstrom is a little bit unbelievable, and a tad annoying, with his bumbling of more than one criminal investigation, (which this reader finds screamingly frustrating), and his erratic highway driving which endangers the lives of those he holds dear. No, if there was a ‘don’t like’ button, I would press it.
I could, of course, talk about Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, a poster girl for feminism if there ever was one. Lisbeth is very different, has Asperger syndrome and a chequered and dysfunctional past, is not only a strong, female heroine but calls a spade, a blunt object. I love her attitude, her unfaltering intelligence, her weaknesses and her differences. So many readers are fond of her character, yet she is the underdog, she is from the ‘other side of the tracks,’ from the vulnerable, and often, marginalised part of society.
Nesbo? He is my favourite author, but Nesbo’s protagonist: Harry Hole, often acts alone. Is there really no side character, you ask? Well, Harry has several police partners in the series: a couple of them who die and there’s a third that is hospitalised in a mental institution, so they are not too promising a selection. However: Harry Hole does have an old school friend, (if Harry could ever be considered to have a ‘friendship’ with anyone), and it is he, that gets my vote as favourite side character.
“Øystein Eikeland is a fellow alcoholic, who drives taxis around Oslo for a living and is, according to Wikipedia, “possibly the person with whom he, [Harry Hole] is closest,“. Øystein is the sort of friend we all want: reliable, trustworthy, resourceful, yet doesn’t get in your hair or crowd your style, but is there when we really need him. Øystein has no expectations of Harry and does not try to ‘save’ him from his own vices, (sometimes aiding Harry’s wild alcoholic behaviour), but still, Øystein is there to empathise and supply critical information when things go so very wrong, which they do in Nesbo’s stories. In some novels, Øystein has even been instrumental in leading to breakthroughs in the investigations, yet he remains, at all times, in the background never, for one minute, taking the spotlight off Harry. Just the sort of character a good protagonist needs, one that has your back!!!
Yep: Øystein gets the prize for favourite side character in the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo
Have you identified a favourite side character in a novel?