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An Accidental Detective

How do you create something familiar, but different and less formulaic?

Do you go for something original and distinctive – unique even?

Perhaps, but you run the risk of alienating the readers you want to attract. They read certain books because they know what they want and what to expect. They might not take to kindly to you messing around with this.

Murder mystery readers are pretty savvy when it comes to the classic whodunit. But they still want you to give them something they’ll enjoy and remember.

For me, the desire to create a murder mystery readers would love held me in a vice-like grip. I had to start somewhere, but where? In the end I focused on the main character. Did I want a police officer or a private investigator?

Or an amateur sleuth?

Miss Marple

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple sprung to mind. She’s about as distinctive as you can get, and as popular today as she always been. There’s something appealing, even romantic, about an ordinary person solving a murder. Talk about being pulled out of your comfort zone.

But an ordinary person must still be believable and credible. They must also have an unshakable reason for investigating a murder. Let’s be honest, you’ll be facing dangers from a killer who doesn’t intend to be caught. You’ll be up against the police, who won’t take too kindly to you trampling over their evidence and crime scenes.

And you have no authority or power to make people help you. You have only your wits and cunning to ferret out the truth.

It’s not for the faint hearted, which is why the sleuth needs a reason to investigate. A reason that cannot be ignored or ducked. It could be a family member or dear friend that was killed, or they were charged with a murder they didn’t commit.

I’m sure you’ve seen and read plenty of scenarios like these.

The challenges taxed my conscious mind and my imagination for longer than I care to recall. All I knew for certain was that my amateur sleuth would be an environmental health officer, like me.

Why? Well, it’s my career, what I know. I’ve solved many a complex problem. I’ve enforced the law, closed down insanitary restaurants, prohibited many a danger to workers and the public. I’ve conducted taped interviews, prosecuted those guilty of all kinds of offences.

I’ve enforced laws to protect people’s health and the environment.

I’ve also investigated several fatal workplace accidents over the years.

It gave me the idea I needed one afternoon, as I drove across my South Downs district between food hygiene inspections.

I would create a murder, disguised as a work accident, which my sleuth would investigate as part of his normal work duties.

I still had to create the character, make him credible and produce the most baffling whodunit I could manage, of course. It took longer than I ever thought it would, with many false starts, dead ends and blocks along the way. But finally, I was on my way.

I won’t bore you with how I came up with the name, Kent Fisher, because that’s for another blog post. It simply felt right, and created an image in my mind I could translate onto the page.

Next, I made Kent a fan of crime fiction and dramas. His favourite detective is Columbo, who can unpick the most complex of puzzles. He loves Kinsey Millhone, the feisty PI in Sue Grafton’s Alphabet murders. In many respects, she’s his ideal woman – perhaps the one he compares the women in his life to.

Inspector Morse

Then there’s Miss Marple and Inspector Morse – both at the cosy end of the market, but still unmissable on TV or in books.

These were the books and TV series I grew up with and watched without fail each week. They kept me glued to the TV, determined to work out the identity of the killer before the detectives did. I loved the tension, the suspense, and the backstories that made these people so addictive.

This is what I try to bring to my Downland Murder Mystery novels – but with a sleuth that’s a little different. Hard boiled, cynical detectives, who fall in love with femme fatales are not for me.

But a credible sleuth, a murder disguised as an accident, and a complex, twisting plot weren’t enough.

I wanted to raise the stakes, to throw more obstacles in Kent Fisher’s way to make his investigating more challenging, more complicated, more exciting.

His background offered plenty of family secrets to derail him. As he begins to unearth the clues that will lead him to the killer, these secrets threaten the lives of those he loves and cares about.

If he continues, they’re in danger. If he doesn’t, the killer walks free.

And finally, I had to add some humour to lighten the mix. I know a lot of police officers. I’ve shared their gallows humour. Even the darkest murder mystery needs a few lighter moments.

I wanted to create something all the family could read and enjoy. Something to baffle, excite and entertain them.

If this is what you’re looking for, No Accident, the book that launches the series, is only 99p/99c.

I’ve priced it low because there’s always a risk when you try a new author. So, why not try the book for less than the price of a cup of tea? Hopefully, you’ll love it and come back for more. There are another eight novels in the series, and a ninth in the pipeline.

Check out the Books page for more details.

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