For fans of Alex Barclay and Niamh O’Connor, Little Bones introduces Cathy Connolly, a bright young heroine set to take the world of crime fiction by storm. Attending what seems to be a routine break-in, troubled Detective Garda Cathy Connolly makes a grisly discovery: an old wedding dress – and, concealed in its hem, a baby’s bones. And then the dress’s original owner, Lavinia Grant, is found dead in a Dublin suburb. Searching for answers, Cathy is drawn deep into a complex web of secrets and lies spun by three generations of women.
Meanwhile, a fugitive killer has already left two dead in execution style killings across the Atlantic – and now he’s in Dublin with old scores to settle. Will the team track him down before he kills again?
Struggling with her own secrets, Cathy doesn’t know dangerous – and personal – this case is about to become…
Sam Blake very generously wrote for crimeworm about some of the things that she came across in real life that ultimately led to the writing of Little Bones. (I’d also like to add that the website, Writing.ie, is incredibly useful and interesting for writers – and wannabe writers!) While my review is still to come – I’ve bought a new Kindle Fire, yay!, but it is taking a bit of getting used to – let’s make that a lot of getting used to – I can say that, so far, Little Bones is really enjoyable and hard to put down! Not really surprising, actually, given that it’s publisher is Twenty7 by Bonnier, an excellent imprint for debut writers that Cleo, Christine and myself have been raving about for the past year.
Sam Blake on Committing Murder*
(*not a personal memoir)
Murder is the ultimate crime, the taking of a life, and while we as crime writers fictionalise it and create worlds where our readers can escape and be hooked into an often complex story, I’m very cognisant that crime is all too real for many people. In 2011 I interviewed a lady called Melissa Moore who had recently written a memoir called Shattered Silence.
One day Melissa was playing with her then six year old daughter in their back garden in Spokane, Washington, and as the swing came to rest, her daughter asked an innocent question that set off a chain of events that was to bring Melissa to national TV including the Dr. Phil and Oprah Winfrey shows, write a bestselling book and most importantly, confront her past. That question?
‘Mommy, where’s your daddy? Everybody has a daddy. Where’s yours?’
How could Melissa admit to her daughter and to those around her that her father was serving three life sentences with no chance of parole for the brutal murder of eight women? That he had confessed (then later recanted) that he had committed 160 murders across California, Florida, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming?
Keith Hunter Jesperson, a long distance truck driver, began his killing spree in 1990, when Melissa was just 10 years old. In the next five years, he is confirmed to have killed seven women in five states before he finally murdered his then girlfriend Julie Ann Winningham and wrote a letter to his brother implicating himself. Jesperson left a trail of graffiti confessions at rest stops and restaurants across America, sending authorities and newspapers anonymous letters describing his savage murders in detail. The graffiti and letters were signed with a smiley face drawing, earning him the nickname “The Happy Face Killer.”
Melissa explained to me ‘He was my father and didn’t have a conscience; he didn’t show remorse for the victims, I took it upon myself to feel that burden, that guilt, for him, and I didn’t realize I’d done that.’
The act of murder produces a ripple effect that devastates the lives of everyone it touches.
My husband was a member of An Garda Síochána, the Irish Police Force for thirty years and he and his colleagues have attended many incidents where violent crime has been committed. What interests me, and I hope my readers is the why, the motivation behind what makes people – and transposing that into a fictional environment – my characters, kill.
Creating believable characters is about understanding their motivation, their psychology, and as a writer I feel I have a duty to those effected by real life crime to make sure I get that right.
In a cross section of murders committed in 2011/2012 Citizens Report UK revealed that the most ‘at risk’ age group for homicide is children under a year of age. Above 16 years, the most at risk age ranges from 16 to 20, and 21 to 29. Two thirds of homicide victims in their sample were male and the most common method used for homicide was a knife or sharp instrument (approx 40%) for both men and women. The second most common method for males victims was punching or kicking; for female victims it was strangulation. Gun and firearm murders offences represented 6% of deaths.
Female victims were most likely to be killed by someone they knew (approx 78%), with around 47% of female victims being killed by a partner or ex-partner. Male victims knew their assailant around 57% of the time, being killed by a partner or ex-partner 5% of the time.
Victims under 16 were likely to know their assailant (around 70%), when the assailant was known this was in 50% of cases the parent of the victim.
Little Bones is about just that, it’s about the murder of a child, about what happens when a young detective, Cathy Connolly, finds a baby’s bones hidden in the hem of a wedding dress. Cat has her own reasons for being doubly shocked by this particular crime – she’s young, single and has recently discovered she’s pregnant. As Cat think to herself at the scene – ‘Children trusted the adults around them to provide food and warmth, love and protection. And when that trust was betrayed . . .
© Sam Blake
Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout who has assisted many award winning and bestselling authors to publication. Vanessa has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks and she had an idea for a book.
Little Bones is the first in the Cat Connolly Dublin based detective thriller trilogy. When a baby’s bones are discovered in the hem of a wedding dress, Detective Garda Cathy Connolly is face with a challenge that is personal as well as professional – a challenge that has explosive consequences.
Follow Sam Blake on Twitter @writersamblake or Vanessa @inkwellhq – be warned, they get tetchy with each other!