A detective has to travel to search for clues, interview witnesses or chase the criminal. Sherlock Holmes relied on hansom cabs and railways and Hercule Poirot similarly depends on public transport or cars provided by friends and clients. More recent detectives have their own form of transport which in some cases has become part of their character. Is it possible to imagine Morse in anything other than the red mark II Jaguar?
The car can be a plot device. Action can take place in it, or it can break down or run at fuel at opportune moments in the story. The description of the vehicle is incidental but may indicate something about its owner. Merrily Watkins (in Phil Rickman’s Herefordshire tales of a female rev) drives a fairly clapped out, messy Volvo estate which mirrors aspects of her personality i.e. stressed, uninterested in fashion, but reliable.
In a TV crime series the car has a bigger part to play. The same vehicles will appear in each episode and so become associated with the characters. The vehicles are often central to the action. Classic cars are common. As well as Morse’s Jag there’s Bergerac’s Triumph roadster, Inspector Linley’s Alvis, Dennis Waterman’s Triumph Stag in ‘New Tricks’ and even Jack Frost’s old Volvo.
In police series the cars have character of their own. The first cop show I recall was ‘No Hiding Place’ in the late 50s with its black Wolseleys and bells. Perhaps part of the attraction of the brash Z cars in the early 60s were the white Ford Zephyrs with the big fins and sirens. I didn’t watch The Sweeney or the Professionals but I gather they used cars that reflected the style of the shows.. American shows had their cars too, Paul Drake’s Ford Thunderbird (I think) in Perry Mason, Starsky and Hutch’s Ford Torino and whatever it was that Kojak.drove.
Recently police officers have had to manage with more standard fare – Mondeos and Vectras, although Midsommer’s Barnaby has gone through Rover 75s, big Volvos and even a Jag at times.
So the question was – what car should Jasmine Frame drive? She no longer has access to the police garage (DS Tom Shepherd has the use of a Mondeo), Now that she is single, all the spare money she has goes towards her transitioning and anything that boosts her femininity. She has little cash to spend on a flash car and no interest in what she drives. Nevertheless she has to get around Kintbridge and its environs. The answer is a ten year old Ford Fiesta, rust red, which goes, just, but adds a touch of uncertainty to any journey. The car play a fairly important part in the plot of Painted Ladies but saying more would be a spoiler. Just six weeks left to publication – more details coming soon