Tag Archives: Accused

The Intel: Isabelle Grey

Isabelle GreyHere’s an Easter treat… we’re great fans of  Isabelle Grey here at Crime Thriller Fella, so we’re delighted to be taking part in the Blog Tour for her hard-hitting new novel Shot Through The Heart.

We loved Grey’s first Grace Fisher novel Good Girls Don’t Die, and now Grace, and the wonderfully disreputable journalist Ivo Sweatman, return in a story which follows the shocking consequences of a multiple shooting in Essex at Christmas – when five people five people are gunned down before the lone shooter turns his weapon on himself.

Grace, now a Detective Inspector, is tasked with making some sense of this atrocity – all the more sensitive because the first of the victims was one of their own: a police officer. The case throws her back together with crime reporter Sweatman, but as she investigates it becomes clear that the police connection goes much deeper than she thought.

As the evidence of corruption grows and she is obstructed at every turn, Grace knows she is walking further into danger. Then, her young key witness disappears . . .

Isabelle is a lifelong writer. She’s been a television scriptwriter – writing episodes of Accused and Midsomer Murders, among others – a journalist and an author of non-fiction. In this fascinating interview she talks about Grace, gun crime, how her own experiences as a journalist inspired the roguish Sweatman, and how words on a page are never wasted…

Tell us about DI Grace Fisher…

DI Grace Fisher is a young woman who isn’t afraid to make mistakes, or to live with the consequences of her actions. A life spent writing fiction can sometimes feel trivial and irresponsible, so Grace was inspired by close women friends who do demanding jobs in the real world – head teacher, GP. Their daily decisions have lasting consequences, and I wanted Grace to feel that her work carries weight in the same way.

How has the character developed since her debut in Good Girls Don’t Die?

In Shot Through The Heart Grace feels a little older and wiser, grateful for friends she can trust, but not yet ready to go looking for anything more intimate. Her passion is directed instead towards rooting out bullying and corruption in the police, even if she has to bend her own rules to do so.

Shot Through The Heart follows Grace’s investigation into a multiple shooting on Christmas Day – when researching the novel what did you learn about gun crime in the UK?

The idea for the book began with a newspaper article about the conviction of a criminal armourer. I became intrigued by how such a pivotal underworld figure could manage to remain so shadowy and hidden while illicit weapons were so readily available on the street. I then found Home Office reports that supplied exhaustive detail on guns and gun crime in the UK. Around that time, as a volunteer with the prison charity The New Bridge, I was making visits to the high security prison, Whitemoor, near Ely. Driving through the flat and lonely fenland landscape, I passed a sign for a gunsmith on an otherwise empty road; on each of the long journeys home, I began to spin a story about the gunsmith’s daughter.

Shot Through The Heart

Why are we as readers so intrigued by shocking violent events such as random shootings, do you think?

I think it’s because they are so often random. Like the invented commencement speech, Wear Sunscreen, they’re the kind of troubles that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday. They appear to come out of nowhere, the victims may have no connection whatever with the shooter and have done absolutely nothing to deserve such a fate, yet these tragedies are not senseless. Something drives each shooter to enact such atrocities.

Cynical crime reporter Ivo Sweatman makes his second appearance in the series – was Ivo shaped by your own experiences in journalism?

Ivo is certainly shaped by the romantic idealism I felt for journalism when I began writing for The Times in the late 1970s. I was a feature writer – I never managed to become a reporter – but I’d been at school as Watergate unfolded and had followed every detail. Even though Ivo works for a fairly sleazy tabloid, he would love this year’s Oscar-winner, Spotlight, about the investigative team on the Boston Globe who broke the story about the protection given to paedophile priests by the Catholic Church. It’s a film that proves how incredibly important – and exciting – good journalism can be.

As a television screenwriter, how did you come to write novels?

There were stories I wanted to tell that, for various reasons, I was unlikely to get commissioned for television. I’m lucky to have a wonderful editor at Quercus, Jane Wood, who allows me the freedom to find my story in the writing – a luxury that the structure of the film and television industry is seldom able to offer. Of course it would be lovely if a production company wanted to pick up Grace Fisher for a TV series!

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

Apart from the fact that rejection hurts?! It’s that, if something’s getting in the way of my story, I have to dump it, even if it’s most of what I’ve written or a character I love. It’s vital to be clear about what my story really is. If the abandoned material deserves a place elsewhere, it’ll worm its way back in some other form. Nothing is ever wasted.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

TV crime dramas are now ‘authored’ in a way they seldom used to be, and I really admire writers like Sally Wainwright for Happy Valley, Jed Mercurio for Line of Duty or Baltasar Kormákur who created the recent Icelandic drama Trapped.

Give me some advice about writing…

Keep going. Finish it. Then re-write. More than once. Do everything you can to help the reader get the most out of the experience of reading your work.

What’s next for you and Grace? 

I’m over halfway through the first draft of the next book, in which Grace investigates a ‘non-recent’ allegation of child sex abuse, with all the political intrigue, denial and double-dealing that goes along with that. It brings her up against Scotland Yard, who aren’t going to be very happy with her!


Shot Through The Heart is out right now in hardback and ebook, published by Quercus. Happy reading this Easter!


Guest Post: Isabelle Grey On Starting A New Series

On Friday we reviewed Isabelle Grey’s first novel to feature DS Grace Fisher. Good Girls Don’t Die is the first of a projected series about Grace and her colleagues in the Murder Investigation Team in Colchester, and I do believe we liked it very much.

Isabelle is an experienced television writer — her credits include Accused, The Bill and Midsomer Murders — and when she was given the opportunity to start a new procedural series, she found herself facing a whole new set of challenges.

I’m thrilled to say that Isabelle has written a guest post for Crime Thriller Fella about her experience of creating a new series from scratch:

Isabelle GreyIf I’d been asked to consider writing a series of crime novels a few years back, before I’d written two stand-alone novels, I probably would have declined. Not out of ingratitude but because I didn’t think I’d be up to it. Too many words! Too many descriptions of places and clothes and what people look like! Writing for television has its own challenges, but I had become accustomed to location managers, production, costume and hair & make-up designers, and of course actors, doing all that stuff, so I’d never had to consider how to go about create, maintain  people and an entire world.

I’ve written dozens of crime dramas for television, so coming up with dramatic plots and suspense hooks is not the problem. And the way in which TV – Happy Valley, Line of Duty, True Detective – has been re-inventing series drama is incredibly exciting; the opportunity my publisher, Quercus, has given me to create my own series in fiction is a real adventure.

However, I admit that my first two novels were a steep learning curve in writing character. Although writing novels of psychological suspense gave me the chance to go inside my characters’ heads in a way that a script never can, I initially forgot that I wouldn’t have a charismatic or much-loved actor to play the roles. But I learned quickly from my readers that, in fiction, I had to make my protagonist much more fundamentally appealing, admirable and redeemable than I necessarily would in a screenplay, and I kept this lesson firmly in mind when creating Grace Fisher, the central character of my new crime series.

She’s got to be a clever detective. She’s got to be that little bit different, to stand slightly apart from her colleagues. She – like any noir hero – has to be wounded in some way. And she’s a woman, which means she’s not actually a noir hero at all.

I was helped by my best friend from far-off school days – the school to which, as we did not forget, Emmeline Pankhurst had sent her daughters. My friend said simply that Grace Fisher had to be a High School girl. And, with that, Grace became someone I recognised. Not a role for an actor to play, but one of the women I grew up with, someone who isn’t me – a distance that’s vital – but with whom I share traits, a woman who is vulnerable but has been taught nevertheless to get on with it and do the best she can – a fine attitude, but one about which I feel an occasional ambivalence.

Good Girls Don't DieThe next question became what kind of rocks was I going to throw at her? What kind of world would Grace have to react to and accommodate? I already knew that I wanted to write about the relationship between the police and the media in a major murder enquiry, about shame and exposure and double standards, so I needed a crime story that would dramatize those ideas. Because I believe that all crime stories essentially reflect current concerns and unease, I didn’t have to look far to find some really interesting rocks to throw, rocks that might make even a High School girl twist in the wind.

If any one of the characters is ‘me’, then it’s the tabloid crime reporter, Ivo Sweatman. I gave him my own romantic early love of Fleet Street, which meant that, however despicable his methods or his past, he can’t be all bad. The more I enjoy writing him, the worse he can behave. And not only does the reader get to see Grace through his eyes, but so do I, which enabled me to view her and her world in a way I then found easier to describe.

Now, writing the second book in the series, it’s a joy to bring these familiar people into a new situation and chuck a fresh set of rocks that they will find hard to dodge. Rocks that, I hope, will hurt their hearts and souls. And, finally, I’m now also getting the hang of how very different writing fiction is to writing screenplays: I realise that, in fiction, I also have to articulate the work of an actor playing the part and interpreting the role.

I now have even more respect for actors.

Good Girls Don’t Die, the first in a series of crime novels featuring detective Grace Fisher, is published by Quercus.