Thursday, 10 March 2016

Leigh Russell on Moving Away from Police Procedurals

Interested in what makes people tick, I have always been fascinated by people who kill. What passion or insanity is it that drives someone to commit murder? Is it an act that any one of us could carry out given sufficient provocation or terror, or does it require a particular kind of personality to pull the trigger or thrust the blade? This kind of speculation led me to write my debut, Cut Short, the first of my crime novels that examine the psyches of different killers. Quite unintentionally, I found myself launched into a new career, writing a series of murder stories.

Advances in forensics make it almost inevitable that murders nowadays are subject to police investigations. The police have resources at their disposal that are simply not accessible to civilians. So it seemed to me that the best way to write about the killers who interested me was to write police procedurals. So Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel appeared, along with her colleague Ian Peterson. The parameters of a police investigation offer a familiar format, which gives the author an opportunity to fulfill or confound readers' expectations.

Having written a dozen or so police procedurals, I wanted to tackle the challenge of writing something different. My police procedurals have not been abandoned. The Geraldine Steel series is still only half way through, with at least another ten in the pipeline. But I am also writing a new series featuring my heroine Lucy Hall, which is taking me in a different direction.

It has been an exciting venture. Lucy Hall is not a police officer, which frees me from the restrictions of the police procedural. She is not accountable to anyone for her decisions or her actions, and there is no one to arrange back up or even notice if she goes off alone. She is twenty-two in Journey to Death, and still only twenty-four in the second book in the series, young enough to be impetuous and take risks. What is more, being a civilian means she can throw herself into all sorts of dangerous situations that an experienced detective of nearly forty could never credibly tackle alone.

At the same time, in some ways it has been a daunting experience as I am never quite sure how Lucy is going to extricate herself from any situation. Her investigative skills are not under scrutiny. She can go where she likes, and do what she wants, driven solely by her determination to protect the innocent and see the guilty punished. How she achieves that is entirely up to her, a freedom that I find both daunting and inspiring.

The Lucy Hall books are part crime novels, part adventure stories. It is going to be fun watching my new protagonist get into all sorts of scrapes. Acting independently, she will have to rely on her own instincts and intelligence to save herself from danger. I'm looking forward to seeing what she gets up to next, and how she manages to survive.

Journey to Death by Leigh Russell

Lucy Hall arrives in the Seychelles determined to leave her worries behind. The tropical paradise looks sun-soaked and picture-perfect—but as Lucy soon discovers, appearances can be very deceptive. A deadly secret lurks in the island’s history, buried deep but not forgotten. And it is about to come to light.  As black clouds begin to gather over what promised to be a relaxing family break, Lucy realises that her father stands in the eye of the coming storm. A shadow from his past is threatening to destroy all that he holds dear—including the lives of his loved ones.  A dark truth is about to explode into their lives, and that truth is going to hit them right between the eyes.

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