We recently celebrated the release of Margaret James’ first crime novel with Ruby Fiction, The Final Reckoning. Today on the blog Margaret is telling us a little bit about the crime fiction she enjoys and the inspiration for her first writing foray into the genre …
Why do authors write crime fiction? Surely real life can be terrifying enough? Who wants to read about imaginary crimes when there are plenty of factual horrors in the newspapers and on our screens every day?
Well, a quick glance at the bestseller charts will reveal that plenty of people want to read about fictional crimes. Romantic and crime fiction regularly top the genre charts both in bookshops and in libraries.
I’m a big fan of crime, thriller and mystery fiction. But, having said that, I’m not a fan of in-your-face cruelty and mayhem. As a mother of daughters, crime fiction in which a young and innocent woman is horribly killed is a big turn-off for me and I never read it. Ditto stories about the abductions and murders of children – those are even more distressing. My preferred crime reading is the kind that offers me a puzzle. Who did whatever someone did? Why did they do it? I don’t want to have to care too much about the murder victim. Actually, I much prefer it if this person kind of deserved their fate.
So, when it came to writing some crime fiction of my own, my starting point was the puzzle. Why would someone want to murder a middle-aged man in a rather decisive but unusual way? What message, if any, was the killer leaving for the police to find? My heroine, Lindsay Ellis, is the one who stumbles across the body, but she is never a suspect. Eventually, the dead man’s son is tried for his father’s murder, but he is acquitted. Who else would have had a motive to kill?
Nobody – apparently.
The fun of writing The Final Reckoning came from filling it with twists and turns, from puzzling my characters as much as I hoped I would puzzle my readers, and from delivering the kind of twist that would encourage these readers to guess the truth, but to guess wrong.
I’m hoping the solution to the mystery will come as a surprise to readers, but that most readers will say: yes, of course, it had to be like that! Rather than: oh, as if!
I haven’t cheated these readers. I’ve slipped in plenty of clues pointing to the identity of the murderer and also to the murderer’s motivation. But, of course, as the writer, I have known the answer to the big question in this novel all along. So it looks rather obvious to me!