DCI Jane Birchfield is facing a series of personal challenges: a rocky relationship with her partner, her mum hardly talks to her; and her boss and mentor is critically ill, which means she is having to cover his post as well as her own. Then she has to take charge of the toughest of murder investigations.
Jamie Castleton is found dead, seemingly frozen in position at a computer in a grubby internet cafe in the Manchester suburb of Ashbridge. Enquiries reveal he was a self employed tech consultant and a computer expert, so what was he doing in there?
The more Jane and her team dig under the surface, the more the evidence points to one of Manchester’s biggest companies, Greaves, and its super-wealthy boss, Graeme Hargreaves. This leads Jane into a sordid underworld, and a surprise twist in the investigation forces her to face up to an event in her own past, that she has kept buried for 25 years.
Slowly, but surely, the net tightens around the suspects, but can she stay objective, and can she keep herself, her team, and her relationship, together, and bring the killer to justice? For Jane it has become a personal crusade, but in this race against time there is far more at stake than she ever imagined.
– When and where do you prefer to write?
I’ve claimed a corner of the dining room and stacked the shelves with my favourite books to make it feel more like my territory.
I tend to go with the flow. If it feels right, I will work for a couple of hours each morning and afternoon, but I’m relaxed about skipping a day or two. I’m not one to try to force it. I’ve learned to trust myself, but I usually end up writing or doing writing-related things for about an hour a day.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
No, I’m completely random!
– Is there a drink or some food that keeps you company while you write?
It’s not total dependency, but I must admit I do function better with the help of tea and ginger nuts.
– What is your favourite book?
Recently, ‘The Midnight Library’, but my all time favourite is ‘On the Beach’ by Neville Shute.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
Good question, and good timing… I wrote a fantasy book a long time ago (maybe 25 years ago) and found the manuscript last week. I plan to start editing/re-writing, as soon as I have finished the fourth in my crime fiction series. It will be fascinating to read it again and hopefully find out how much I have improved!
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Not consciously no. Reading back over passages, though, I can see elements that spring out at me and remind me of someone. I tend to think visually first, get a picture of a person. I think it’s because I started off writing plays, where it’s important to ‘see’ the people and events you are putting on a page. I do draw on past events in my own life and impose them on my characters, occasionally, though.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
No, I don’t. I’m a neat and tidy person, don’t like clutter, so you’d think I’d be very organised about my writing. I absorb mood, environment, conversation and body language when I’m out and about, and that works for me: I know they will come back to me when I need them.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
I’ve never been a fan of the family saga: the epic novels that span endless generations. It’s entirely my loss because I am sure there are some absolute gems out there. Maybe one day, when I have more time…
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
I would choose Charles Dickens, even though I’d never get a word in edgeways. Of more recent writers, I’d love to work alongside John Grisham, who is, I think, an incredible storyteller. And with my name with his on the cover, he’d be sure to sell a few extra books!
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
Tough choice. If pushed, I would go to Namibia, for the dunes, the big skies, the heat and, not least, the wildlife. I’d booked a holiday there but then had to cancel because of the lockdown. I hope to go there one day and get close to my favourite animal, the giraffe.
Thank you, Heaton Wilson and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
I have been a newspaper journalist, a postman, a public relations officer, a consultant, an actor, a director, a playwright. And I have always kept writing.
I always felt I could write a novel. And I did! The first book in my crime fiction series featuring DCI Jane Birchfield, Every Reason, came out in 2016. Whatever It Takes was published in 2021; and the third book (which follows on where Whatever It Takes ends) is nearing completion.
I’m from Manchester but now live on the Isle of Wight, where the sea is never far away. It’s the perfect place to be creative, and to walk the dogs.