Tag Archives: Crime fiction

My Three Book Thriller Deal…

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve got a new three-book deal with Head Of Zeus. We’re talking a brand-new crime series featuring a fab new heroine and a creepy psychological thriller! Here’s how The Bookseller reported it…

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I’m Outside Your House.

9780751563252Hands up who’s ever found themselves staring into a stranger’s house late at night?

You’re strolling along the street, say, minding your own business – taking the dog for a walk, or on your way home – and your attention is caught by soft lamplight coming from inside a home. The curtains are open so you can see right inside, you see everything. You slow. The dog may helpfully stop to sniff something on the pavement, giving you the excuse to stop in front of the house.

Your eyes drink in all the details of someone else’s life. The flowers in a vase on the dining table, the photos on the mantelpiece of friends and family. The room is filled with knick-knacks accumulated over a lifetime. There may be a flickering fire and a comfortable armchair with a paperback laying open on the arm. You can’t help but wonder who lives there, and what it must be like to be them. You want to know how it feels to relax in that cosy armchair, feel its worn fabric beneath your fingertips, in front of that crackling fire.

If you’re unlucky, you might get busted. Someone will walk into the room, or appear suddenly behind the curtain, silhouetted in the light behind them, to glare at you for staring into their house. They’ll pull the curtains shut to hide their personal space from your prying eyes.

Have you ever done that, stood outside a stranger’s house staring in…

Oh. Only me, then.

It’s like that one time. I was house-hunting – this was years ago – and for some reason the only time I could view a particular property was late one winter’s night. I remember standing alone in a stranger’s bedroom, surrounded by all their personal things, their bedclothes folded neatly on the duvet, all their cosmetics neatly arranged on a dressing table, a full moon shining in the window, and I had a weird sense of dislocation. For a moment, I felt like I already lived there, that it was my room – in my home.

Oh dear. I’m not coming out of this very well, am I?

Point is, it’s those fleeting moments, those tantalising glimpses into the personal space of other people, that inspired my second novel, It Was Her.

I wanted to write about a cuckoo in the nest. Someone who slips into other people’s houses when they’re empty, like a modern-day Goldilocks. To take a bath, watch a bit of telly, eat the lovely food in the kitchen cupboards, curl up in bed. I wondered what would make them do such a thing? Perhaps they need to go into other people’s houses because their own happy home was once taken from them. And, of course, I wanted to discover how such a creepy obsession can lead to murder.

And the more I thought about it, the more it was obvious that it was exactly the kind of fucked-up investigation that my enigmatic detectives Ray Drake and Flick Crowley would get their teeth into. So that’s It Was Herin a nutshell.

But, anyway, if you ever see some guy staring in the front window of your house looking in, don’t worry, it’s probably just me taking the dog for a walk.

Except I don’t have a dog.

*It Was Her is available to buy here and at all good bookshops.*

 

 

 

 

 

Alex – Pierre Lemaitre

Unknown-2If you’re looking for a novel that’ll knock you off balance with a series of twisty-turns, you could do worse than read Pierre Lemaitre’s cunning thriller Alex.

Alex is a venomous little viper of a book – just when you think you’ve got a grip on the story, it slithers out of your grasp and slides off into another dark corner – and we all like that in a story, right? Nobody wants to plod the same old linear path. There’s nothing more depressing than getting a chapter into a book and realising you know how it’s all going to play out, to the bitter end.

It’s almost impossible to describe the plot of Alex without revealing too much, but the novel begins with the seemingly random kidnapping of a young woman called Alex Prevost, who is hung in a cage in a warehouse and left there as food for a filthy horde of hungry rats.

A diminutive police inspector called Camille Verhoeven – a man whose towering ego could give Napoleon a run for his money – is persuaded to take on the investigation, despite his own beloved wife having been kidnapped and murdered in the past. Camille and his team search frantically for Alex, and the book careens along at a good old pace, upping the tension as Camilles race to save Alex before it’s too late.

So far so good. But then the novel throws a narrative curveball, and then another one, and a few more, and you realise that Monsieur Lemaitre – and, I should add, his admirable translator Frank Wynne – have been playing you for a fool.

It’s the disturbing and compelling description that grips initially in Alex, but the novel twists into something more complex and interesting, and Camille’s search for Alex takes on a different kind of urgency.

Camille is a really interesting little man, egotistical and difficult, but his trusting relationship with his team is respectful, touching and supportive – in sharp contrast to the heart of darkness that swirls around the novel’s eponymous heroine.

But it’s the plotting that takes your breath away. If you’re a crime writer who wants to learn how to  your readers down unpredictable paths, flip your story over, turn it inside out, change the game — oh, you you know what I mean — I’d absolutely recommend you read this novel very closely.

A former psychologist and teacher, Lemaitre’s an award-winning writer in France, and but Camille returns in another novel in July. I’ll be there.

What I liked: If you’re going to write a crime novel then you’ve got to scatter a few surprises in the story like the nasty pellets that Alex is forced to consume in her dank prison.

It’s often said that novelists are either plotters or pantsers, they work everything out beforehand or they fly along the page by the seat of their pants, not knowing where the narrative is hurtling as they write. Alex is such a finely-tuned narrative that I can’t believe that Msr. Lemaitre didn’t plan it carefully.

Me, I need to know where I’m going when I’m writing, or I start wandering aimlessly, and it takes a lot of work to pull in the story. But I know plenty of writers who can’t bear to work that way. They love the creative freedom of a blank page.

But what about you?  Are you a plotter, or a pantser?

When you sit down to write, have you carefully planned out your story or novel, or do you like to, you know, make it up as you go along?