In her recent review of Tightrope, fellow author, Sarah Rhiannon Ward observed that my new thriller, featuring Private Investigator, Beverley Saunders, put her in mind of Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski novels. How amazing to be mentioned in the same breath as Paretsky! I was deeply flattered, I can tell you, especially since this debut outing for the fearless but flawed Bev is the first time I have told a story with a PI at the helm.
Crime-thrillers with private sleuths or non-police officers as the main protagonists are among the most successful in the world. Patricia Cornwell has millions of fans for her Dr. Kay Scarpetta series, featuring a chief medical examiner. Elly Griffiths is doing brilliantly well with her forensic archaeologist, Dr. Ruth Galloway. My own criminologist heroine, Dr. George McKenzie (in my The Girl Who… series, set in South East London and Amsterdam) has done rather well with readers too. But back to the humble independent sleuth! In addition to Paretsky and Sue Grafton, JK Rowling has had incredible success as Robert Galbraith, writing about her PI, Cormoran Strike. On the small screen as well, the private gumshoe has captured imaginations across the globe. In the 80s, we adored Magnum PI with Tom Selleck. Back in the 1990s, the great British TV-watching public tuned in to get their weekly fix of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates…for four series! And yet, there certainly isn’t currently a proliferation of super-successful PIs in the broad church that is the British crime -fiction genre. They’re massively outnumbered by cops!
As I write this piece for Shots readers, I do have to ask why there is this disproportionate dominance of coppers in crime-fiction, when amateur or non-police sleuths have so much more freedom to investigate. As an author, you get far more mileage from a PI who plays fast and loose with the law than from a detective who is bound by hierarchy, protocol and legal idiosyncrasies. Bev Saunders turned out to be a tremendously fun protagonist for me. Initially, she starts digging for dirt on behalf of her client, Angela Fitzwilliam – the battered wife of Shadow Cabinet Minister, Jerry Fitzwilliam. On the surface, Angie has it all. She’s a wealthy, pampered housewife, living in Hale, Cheshire, where footballers rub shoulders with old money and millionaire entrepreneurs. But scratch the surface and Angie’s world is falling apart, thanks to her bullying, lying husband who puts on a convincing show for the media.
As Bev is a recent divorcée herself, she’s persuaded to take on Angie’s plight and find strong evidence of grounds for divorce that will insure Angela against Jerry’s threat to deny her custody of or even access to their children and to withhold all her marital wealth. This is a powerful man who likes to play dirty, but because Bev is a lone wolf – apart from help in digital matters that she gets from her therapy-group friend and technology-whizz, Doc – Bev can play dirty too. By catfishing the Cabinet Minister and trying to honey-trap him, she becomes embroiled in a terrifying cat-and-mouse chase, where eventually, she is the one being investigated, nay, stalked. Unlike a detective, Bev Saunders is able to go the extra mile without worrying that she’ll be disciplined by a superior. In fact, she’s so naïve to the risks of the job, the pay is so poor and the stakes – if she fails in her self-employed venture – are personally so high, that Bev’s prepared to walk a very perilous tightrope indeed if she’s to bring her case to a satisfactory conclusion. She’s willing to hack, lie and literally flirt her way to the truth, allowing me to take the reader on a very gritty, at times seedy and thrilling journey.
Do you think 2019 is going to be the summer where Private Investigators get their time in the sun again thanks to a fictitious northern divorcee with sex- and origami-addictions? Will you read Tightrope and be glad that Bev is so driven, so unregulated and so unprofessional in her conduct? Might you just enjoy the danger that little bit more knowing you could easily do her job…if only you were brave and foolhardy enough? Why don’t you let me know?!
Tightrope by Marnie Riches (£7.99, Trapeze Books) Out Now
What happens when a private investigator ends up being the one uncovered? Having lost everything after a failed marriage, Beverley Saunders now lodges in the basement flat of a house owned by her best friend Sophie and her husband, Tim. With Bev's former glittering marketing career in the gutter, she begins to do investigative work for other wronged women, gathering dirt on philanderers, bosses and exes. But when Beverley takes on the case of Sophie's friend Angela, who is seeking to uncover grounds for divorce from her controlling husband, Jerry, the shadow Science Minister, she soon discovers that she isn't the only one doing the investigating... Beverley has a secret history she doesn't want coming out - but will she manage to stay hidden long enough to give Angela the freedom she deserves?