Monday, 14 August 2017

Perfect Prey by Helen Fields

Series:  D.I Callanach #2
Release Date:  27th July 2017
Publisher:  Avon
Genres: Crime / mystery /thriller

Welcome to Edinburgh. Murder capital of Europe.

In the middle of a rock festival, a charity worker is sliced across the stomach. He dies minutes later. In a crowd of thousands, no one saw his attacker.

The following week, the body of a primary school teacher is found in a dumpster in an Edinburgh alley, strangled with her own woollen scarf.

D.I. Ava Turner and D.I. Luc Callanach have no leads and no motive – until around the city, graffitied on buildings, words appear describing each victim.
It’s only when they realise the words are being written before rather than after the murders, that they understand the killer is announcing his next victim…and the more innocent the better.

No one just wakes up one day and decides to write a book. Theres always a backstory. Mine was a relatively lonely childhood in the New Forest with older siblings to whom I was simply an annoyance, and busy working parents. I turned to pen and paper, and soon it became not only an escape but an obsession. I wrote plays and poetry, mainly, as a child, often dragging my school friends into performances during assemblies. I once constructed such an elaborate tale about drug dealers operating from our local church that another girls parents complained to the headmaster that I was causing her nightmares. I was aged ten. These days, Im delighted to say that I get paid for professional nightmare causation.
            At secondary school, I skipped the necessary studying to excel in chemistry and physics, instead writing thirty page fictional essays (my english teacher must have hated me) and delighting in discovering authors such as DH Lawrence and Thomas Hardy. I fell so deeply in love with the novel Far From The Madding Crowd that I named my first son Gabriel. These are the effects books have, of course, and none more so than those we fall in love with during our formative years.
            1984, Catcher in the Rye, Bram Stokers Dracula and The Great Gatsby were some of my school era reads that gave me a passion for literature. Those novels, amongst others, and the opening lines from the poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost.

“Something there is that doesnt love a wall…”

            It fascinates me how some language can leave us cold and yet a different combination of words can light a fire that burns for decades. This is what every author tries to capture when they write. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail, but the aim is always to light that elusive fire inside our readers. So where does the magic lie? Novels are a different proposition than poetry, of course, but the construct is the same. Find the right words to draw a picture in the imagination and get them in the right order. Building gripping stories is the next layer. Characters and concepts is what it boils down to.
            I found 1984 genuinely scary when I first read it, aged thirteen. I had the benefit of angst-filled anti-authoritarian youth to send my imagination reeling, but still, it is a plot that removes you from the everyday and superimposes a new reality across your world. I found an adulthood within the pages, that is all too poignant as I watch the world my children are growing up in. The trick is that the novel makes you angry early on, and the emotion sticks. Dracula was a book way beyond its time. Bram Stoker was a journalist, and he had a real talent for building suspense. Whilst not the most frightening of the literature I read in my teenage years, I recall being blown away by the subject matter Stoker was writing compared with his peers. It was a brave decision not to follow the trends of the time. I think all innovative writing needs that - the determination to write what you feel compelled to write, rather than what the marketplace craves at any given moment.
            When JD Salinger created Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, he unexpectedly released an icon amongst teenagers that endures today. I didnt get caught up in the darkness of the novel as so many readers did, but I remember the sense of delicacy the writing invoked, the feeling that a teenage life is fragile thing. What Salinger does brilliantly is leave a trail of emotions so much more complex than the simple words on the page. Few writers before or since have sewn such difficult subject matter with such fine thread.
            The Great Gatsby made me feel frustrated. My lasting memory is of wanting to shake the characters and wake them up, perhaps not a normal reaction to this text but then the books that have the greatest effect on us do not have to be ones we love for traditional reasons. Usually they are the books that provoke the strongest reactions within us. The book was overshadowed by the film and Robert Redfords face turned it into something less, for me. A rather cloying romantic affair which minimised its importance. The book is about social upheaval and the juxtaposition of niceties with the realities of emotions. I would not reread it now, although perhaps I should. I rather enjoy the slight irritation it left me with aged fourteen.
            These days, the reality is that I dont have as much time to read as Id like, which is why I choose the books I read very carefully. I would rather read fewer books and be able to remember them clearly, than race through and have them all muddle into one large generic story. That said, reading is escapism. There shouldt be any snobbery about it. Every book gives its reader something, even if that is only a few minutes respite from the stress, strains or routine of every day life. Part of me wishes I could wipe the slate clean and have no memory of the books that shaped the reader I am today, to experience them anew. Wouldnt that be bliss? 

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