Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Meet the author behind A Limited Justice

Today we have a real treat - a reader's chance to see the background (and peer inside the mind) of a crime writer. I recently reviewed A Limited Justice. You can read it here: A Limited Justice Review

Hi, I’m Catriona King, author of the new Belfast-based D.C.I. Craig detective series. My background is as a doctor living and working in London. I did the forensic medical examiner (F.M.E.) training and worked with the Metropolitan Police  on many occasions. I returned to live and work in Belfast six years ago.

I suppose that I first got the idea for the series about four years ago, when I was taking some time out from work for family reasons. I had always read and watched crime series, and I especially loved Ian Rankin’s series of Rebus novels, set in Edinburgh. Not only were they great stories, but I felt as if I grew to know Edinburgh through them. So, when I eventually visited it, I knew exactly which places I wanted to explore, real and fictional.

Then it occurred to me, why isn’t there something similar based in modern day Belfast? The answer probably seems obvious to someone looking in from outside…’The Troubles’. Except that everybody who lives in Northern Ireland can see at first hand that the Troubles have been over for years, and that Belfast has become a vibrant and modern European city, attracting visitors and business from all over the world.

That was when I decided to do my bit for the peace process and write a modern thriller series which had absolutely nothing to do with the Troubles of the past. I wanted to display a different side to Northern Ireland and show its lively cities, beautiful countryside and amazingly large and creative arts scene.  Four years later, I’ve written four novels centred around a modern hero, D.C.I. Marc  Craig, and his team and plan to write more!

I think that the rest of the world is now seeing on television how much Northern Ireland has changed, so the time seemed right this year to (hopefully) get the series published. I was fortunate enough to get a publishing deal with the innovative Crooked Cat Publishing based, as it happens, in Edinburgh! 

The first novel in the series is called ‘A Limited Justice’ and it was released in August 2012, with the second in the series, ‘The Grass Tattoo’, being released on the 11th December 2012.

I thought long and hard about what sort of core detective team I wanted to create, and inevitably I’ve incorporated some of my own interests in everybody’s back stories. Obviously I wanted the lead character to be charismatic, and I suppose that I’ve tried to make him that classic thing; a man that women would find attractive, and that men wouldn’t mind being. 

But more than that I wanted him to somehow reflect the fact that there are many other nationalities living in Northern Ireland nowadays; Chinese, Polish, African, eastern European, Asian, Italian. Of all of those nations I know Italy best, so I made Craig’s mother Italian, born in Rome and married to a Northern Irish man.  I also made her classical pianist because my father was a classically trained opera singer and I played the piano (very badly!). His father is a retired physics lecturer which reflects all of my brothers’ interest and professions in physics.

I also didn’t want religion to be a focus (as if has been too often in Northern Ireland’s past) so we will never find out what religion Marc Craig follows, if any. He went to an integrated school, because I firmly believe that integrated education is the way for future generations here to stop dividing themselves on sectarian grounds.

I was also very clear that I didn’t want him to be a stereotypical ‘sad’ male detective with nothing in his life but work. Yes, he has sadness in his life, but he has a loving family in the background and he is in his early forties, with lots of potential for romance and perhaps even a family in the future. He’s a very attractive, intelligent man who has a kind of wisdom, and that reflects many of the police officers that I’ve met, both in Northern Ireland and England. Beyond that, well he has his interests, quirks and flaws, like all of us.

His central team are a mixture of people and backgrounds. His right hand man, Liam Cullen, is a happily married father and long-time officer, with all the faults of joining up in a time when the police service wasn’t perhaps as politically correct as it is now! He has frustrations while coming to terms with that, creating the basis for humour and ‘banter’. 

His sergeant, Annette McElroy, was a nurse before she joined the police and she brings that knowledge and approach to things. She’s also a wife and mother and a bit too prissy for her own good at times. 

Nicky Morrison, Craig’s P.A. is a typical working class Belfast woman with her tan, false nails and interest in fashion. She’s as sharp as a whip with a quick sense of humour, and her relationship with Liam Cullen is one to watch. She’s also married with a young son.

Last but not least in the central team is Davy Walsh. A twenty-five-year-old Emo, with the fashion and humour to go with it. He is young, shy and has a mild stutter. He’s a highly intelligent I.T. specialist and attractive and Annette and Nicky mother him mercilessly.

Craig’s burden is his D.C.S. Terry ‘Teflon’ Harrison. He’s a fifty-something womaniser who is snobbish and political. He sees Craig variously as a threat and an asset.

Craig’s team and Harrison are based in the twelve storey Docklands’ Coordinated Crime Unit, based in the real and historic area of Pilot Street in Belfast’s Sailortown. I chose the area as a tribute to my mother’s family who had a business there, about which I heard a great deal as a child growing up.

The Director of Forensic Pathology, Dr John Winter, is Craig’s best friend from school and he is strange, nerdy and brilliant. With John Winter and Annette McElroy I got to use my medical background, as with the forensics at the crime scenes. Winter works with Dr Des Marsham, lead forensic scientist, in the Saintfield Laboratories. They make a quirky pair, working with Craig’s team to solve murders arising in the Belfast area.

So that’s the background to the series and the main players, but each book will bring in new people and sometimes say goodbye to old ones. As the author, even I don’t know where I’m going to send the characters next!

Here’s a little snippet from ‘The Grass Tattoo’, release date 11th December 2012.
‘She watched and waited, her face expressionless, ready to morph into a facsimile of love as soon as he awoke. She knew what love was supposed to look like, God knows she’d been force-fed enough romantic movies by men over the years. Dragging her along to see them, as if it was hard-wired into the female psyche to like dreary stories of love and loss. All they did was make her yawn and long for a Wesley Snipes DVD.’


Catriona King was raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She moved to central London to live and work as a medical doctor where she trained as a police Forensic Medical examiner. She worked in General Practice, Paediatrics and Health Management, working with the Metropolitan Police on many occasions, and encountering many fascinating people and situations, in both Belfast and London.
In recent years, she has returned to live and work in Belfast, basing her D.C.I. Craig crime novels in   the modern streets of Belfast and across Northern Ireland in 2012, and locating the fictitious crime headquarters of Docklands Coordinated Crime Unit in one of Belfast's most colourful and oldest districts, Sailortown. She has family links with the area, her mother’s family having had a business there.
Catriona has written since childhood, fiction, fact and reporting. 'A Limited Justice' is her first novel. It follows Detective Chief Inspector Marc Craig and his team, in the hunt for the killer of three people. A second novel in the D.C.I. Craig series ‘The Grass Tattoo’ is due for release on December 11th 2012. Her publisher is an Edinburgh based company called Crooked Cat Publishing.
Catriona is the founder/ director of a new amateur theatre company and is very active in Belfast's dynamic arts scene. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Friday, 23 November 2012

Soul Searching

Here's an extract from Bad Moon Rising. We are in the killer's point of view and he is looking for a soul to save.

He sang softly as he cruised. Friday nights in this part of town never changed, thank God. It made his work easier. The whores plied their trade in streets where no respectable people came; only those who used their services knew where to find them. As he edged the car around into Beacon Street for the fifth time he finally saw the whore he’d been searching for. She was leaning against the wall, eyes closed as if in prayer. He hoped she prayed. If she did God might save her. Almost as if she knew he was there, she opened her eyes and looked over towards the car. She was perfect for his needs. Almost the image of the girl in his precious photograph. If God approved of his choice, he’d make sure that she’d never turn into the hag that girl became.
He slowed the car. It crawled forward a few yards and then stopped. He touched the button to lower the window on the passenger side. She stood up straight and smiled, a look of interrogation on her face. Why did they all look like that, as if they really wanted to get in the car and open their legs? His heart pounded and his hands felt slippery on the steering wheel. He could barely swallow. It was always like this when he came to collect one of God’s chosen.
If she turned and walked away that would mean God didn’t want him to take her. It’s up to you, Lord. She moved towards him, and he waited, shivering with anticipation. If she got in, then God had spoken and he would do His work. She reached the car and leaned in through the open window. He almost gagged as a cloying sweet scent filled his nostrils. Forcing himself to smile back at her, he nodded in the direction of the dashboard where a wad of twenty pound notes were resting on the leather in front of the steering wheel.
“Fancy a drive?”
She nodded and opened the door, slipping into the passenger side of the car.
“Like car,” she said.
He didn’t answer as he eased the vehicle forward and drove away. He didn’t need to make conversation.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Free gift voucher to celebrate Crooked Cat's birthday

The publisher of Bad Moon Rising (and many other quality books) celebrates its first birthday today. Unlike most birthdays, where everyone gives presents to the birthday person, Crooked Cat Publishing have decided to turn that idea on its head by handing out gift vouchers.

Scoot over to this page and claim your free voucher: http://crookedcatpublishing.com/2012/11/21/crooked-cat-is-one/

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Review of A Limited Justice

Catriona King's A Limited Justice is the first in what I hope will be a long running Belfast crime series. King is a former forensic examiner now living in Belfast, both facts which add to the realism of the settings and forensic science. Not that she overwhelms readers with her knowledge, far from it. There is just enough to paint the scenes and no more.

The story opens with a brutal murder in broad daylight, followed by the seemingly unrelated murder of a WPC. When it becomes clear that the two have been committed by the same person, instead of making life easier for the police, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to work out who the perpetrator might be.

DCI Marc Craig heads up a tight-knit force, intent on stopping the slaughter before the killer can strike again.

The story moves along at a great pace, but never feels rushed and the author has a sure touch, knowing when to switch scenes to make the reader desperate to find out what happens next.

Without adding spoilers it's impossible to give more feedback, other than to say I thoroughly recommend A Limited Justice and will definitely be buying the next DCI Marc Craig novel.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Review of Stay Close

Harlan Coben is one of my all time favourite authors and I wasn’t disappointed by Stay Close.

We have the usual mix of damaged characters, who are never quite what they seem, and an ending that I simply didn’t see coming at all.

One of the damaged is Megan, seemingly happily married with a loving husband and family. But seventeen years ago Megan used to live on the wild side and is now finding her longed for domesticity stifling. Taking a trip into her past connects her with a series of unsolved murders, threatening her life and present day happiness.

The other main character, Ray Levine, is a photographer who used to be at the top of his field. Haunted by a blood-soaked crime scene seventeen years earlier, his career nosedived and he now takes on sleazy faux paparazzi assignments to keep a roof over his head.

Detective Broome is still determined to solve a seventeen year old case. When another man disappears, the paths of Megan, Ray and Broome cross, with devastating consequences.

As the death-toll rises the plot twists and turns in completely unexpected ways. Just when the reader thinks they know what is going to happen next, Coben takes them off in a new direction.

I can usually work out who did what and why – but not in this case. It is, quite simply, a wonderful read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.