Tag Archives: Rear Window

Binary Witness – Rosie Claverton

Binary witnessIf you’re introducing to the world a singular new heroine, both eccentric and damaged, you may want to consider mixing in a cake bowl the DNA of Lincoln Rhyme and Lisbeth Salander. You may want to add a dash of Holmes and the scowling vulnerability of Chloe from 24. Dribble in a tot of Gregory House and then season with a pinch of Rear Window – and just the merest hint of the shabby tech of Torchwood. Let the recipe stew in a darkened flat for a lifetime and – voila – what you have is the first of the Amy Lane Mysteries.

Rosie Claverton’s fast-paced novel Binary Witness is an unashamed geeky mash-up of crime references. Her protagonist Amy Lane is an agoraphobic computer genius, wracked by anxiety attacks, who solves crime from her bolt hole somewhere in Cardiff. And, of course, we’re not talking parking violations.

Boot up the blurb:

Police detectives rely on Amy Lane to track the digital debris of their most elusive criminals—when she’s not in the throes of a panic attack. After two students disappear in Cardiff, Amy uncovers photographic evidence that they’ve been murdered. From the safety of her computer, she looks through the city’s digital eyes to trace the steps of a killer.

Amy’s investigation requires footwork, however, and the agoraphobic genius can’t hack it alone. She turns to her newly-hired cleaner, ex-con Jason Carr. Jason is fascinated by both Amy and the work, and can’t refuse even when she sends him into situations that risk returning him to prison.

The killer strikes again and again, and Amy and Jason are the only investigators closing in on him. But Amy’s psyche is cracking under the strain, and Jason’s past is catching up with him. To stop the next murder, they must hold their unconventional partnership together at any cost.

There’s plenty to like in Binary Witness. It has an offbeat geeky charm – fun and knowing and full of sly crime and pop culture references. The set-pieces – a couple of long sequences in a hospital and at a train station – are really exciting, and Claverton really nails Cardiff’s vibrant cityscape, its young tribes. Its street gangs and students, the bars and clubs, the social media hubs. Claverton’s eventual revelation of the identity of the killer is a terrific sleight of hand.

What Claverton does really well is give a real sense of how people exist in two worlds now: in the real world, rarely hidden from the CCTV that follows their every move in public, and online, where they can be increasingly tracked and traced, hunted from afar like prey in the jungle. It’s great fun watching Amy doing her thing in the dark nest of her flat, on a computer called Aeon with which she has an oddly romantic attachment. Bringing up public records, plucking information from online forums and analysing sound waves, watching the world in her own fortress of solitude.

The author is also a scriptwriter and her gallery of characters, such as Amy and Jason, the police detectives Bryn and Owain, and her visiting profiler Eleanor Deaver – you see what she did there? – enjoy the kind of easy relationship you’d perhaps see in tightly-formatted cop series on Sky Living.

I would have liked to have seen more conflict among her cast, maybe. The relationships are touching and ring true, and Amy is an enjoyably flinty character – both imperious and vulnerable, like all our favourite geniuses – but Jason is perhaps less well-defined, to my mind. He’s an ex-con supposedly with a history of violence in street gangs, but he’s also a pussycat who loves his mum and his sister, is devoted to Amy and the old ladies he cleans for.

After some initial suspicion, Jason seems to work happily alongside Cardiff’s finest and charm his way in just about anywhere. He gets hit over the bonce, and gets into the sack with a victim’s flat-mate, he takes part in chases and, as Amy’s representative on earth, races across the city – but a few more rough edges would maybe give him more bite.

Amy, enclosed in her flat, humming with the sound of servers, remains something of an enigma at the end, her backstory not fully explored, but with another book called Code Runner on the way, you get the feeling that Jason’s going to be running around Cardiff for quite some time yet.

Binary Witness is out now, published on the Carina Press, which means you can download it right now.

You may also remember that a few weeks back Rosie did one of Crime Thriler Fella’s hugely-prestigious Intel Interviews. To find out more about Amy, Binary Witness and the book’s path to publication, go here.

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Criminal Minds: Alfred Hitchcock

Born in Leytonstone, East London, in 1899, Alfred Hitchcock directed more than fifty movies across six decades, and is as legendary as anybody in the crime thriller genre. Perhaps the most-famous film director ever, his timeless work is endlessly analysed.

1/ Many of Hitchcock’s films feature heroes who are  wrongly accused. Film historians have suggested this relates back to an incident when the five-year-old Hitchcock was sent by his disciplinarian father, a grocer, to a police station with a note asking that he be locked up for bad behaviour.

2/ Hitchcock always suggested that he found filming a chore, and famously imageslikened actors to cattle – in a sarcastic response, Carole Lombard bought some cows along with her when she reported for duty on set. Hitchcock said he saw the entire completed film in his head before he shot it, right down to the edits, and shooting lost 40 per cent of his original conception of it.

3/ The director’s practical jokes were legendary – he once served a meal of blue food to bewildered guests. But as his reputation has taken on darker hues, many of his more sinister jokes are perhaps more apocryphal. For example, Hitchcock reportedly bet his floor-manager he couldn’t stay handcuffed overnight in an empty studio, and when the fellow agreed, Hitchcock offered him a snifter of brandy to fortify him through the night – however, the alcohol was laced with laxative.

4/ Hitchcock worked with an incredible rosta of writers in his career, including Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Parker – his cameo in Saboteur was originally intended to be shared with Mrs. Parker – Ernest Lehman, Ben Hecht and John Michael Hayes. A young writer called Evan Hunter wrote The Birds – Hunter later become successful as crime writer Ed McBain.

5/ The director’s favourite of his own movies was Shadow Of A Doubt, starring Joseph Cotton as the sinister Uncle Charlie. Two of the scriptwriters on that film were Thornton Wilder, who wrote the theatre repertory mainstay Our Town, and Hitchcock’s own wife, Alma Reville.

poster_rear-window6/ For Rear Window Hitchcock built an extraordinary indoor set: forty feet high and 185 feet long, complete with more than one thousand arc lights. The courtyard of the five-storey apartment block set was actually the excavated basement of the studio. There were 31 apartments built for the movie, complete with running-water and electricity apartments, and many were fully-furnished.

7/ Psycho was something of an experiment for Hitchcock after a string of glossy, expensive movies such as North By Northwest. He filmed it in black and white to keep down costs, and used the crew of his television show. The shower-scene, perhaps the most-famous scene in the history of movies, lasts 45 seconds and includes 70, ahem, cuts.

8/ His cameo appearances in his own movies are well-known, but he appears in only 39 of his 52 surviving films – the joke really took off when he went to America. His first was in UK film, The Lodger, where he faces away from the camera. The longest appearance is in Blackmail, in which he appears on the London Underground. In Lifeboat, he appears in a newspaper advert, and he often made an appearance with a musical instrument case in tow. In Psycho II, which was made three years after his death, his silhouette appears at the Bates Motel, as a homage. And his daughter, Patricia, often appeared as an actress in his movies.

9/ Hitchcock’s appetite for blonde leading ladies is well documented. His famous quote is: ‘Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.’ Among his most actresses were: Tippi Hedren, Janet Leigh, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak and Eva Marie Saint. Many acres of print have been devoted to his alleged obsession with cool blondes, and his reputed manipulation and control of his leading ladies. Tippi Hedren said that Hitchcock ruined her career when she rejected his affections.

Unknown10/ Hitchcock had always wanted to film a French novel, which became the classic Les Diaboliques. Frustrated, he turned to another novel by Boileau-Narcejac, which became Vertigo. Hitchcock had worked several times with James Stewart, but their last collaboration was on that film. Over the years, Vertigo’s reputation has increased and it’s often cited as one of the best films ever made, but when it was released n 1958, it was reviewed badly and suffered at the box-office. As a result, Hitchcock went out of his way to avoid working with Stewart again, delaying production of North By Northwest until his former leading-man wasn’t available. Vertigo also has perhaps the greatest film poster ever.