I’m thrilled to welcome Katharine Johnson to my Thursday Themes blog today, ahead of the release of her new novel, The Suspects, tomorrow.
I was hugely privileged to be allowed to beta-read The Suspects, and even before it reached its final form, it was a brilliant read. I can’t wait to read the final version.
Hello Jo and thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog. I’ve really enjoyed reading about other authors’ #ThursdayThemes so it’s lovely to have this opportunity to talk about the themes in my quirky psychological thriller which is being published tomorrow!
Basically, the story’s about five young people who buy a house together in the late 1980s to get a foot on the property ladder before prices rocket out of their reach – but it soon becomes the house share from hell. After their New Year’s Eve party they discover a body – and it’s clear they’ll be the first suspects.
My first theme is choice. There are various points in the story where Emily the narrator acknowledges their lives could have taken a different direction if they hadn’t made the choices they did.
Emily, Stuart, Zak, Xanthe and Imogen make the decision to buy a house together although they know barely know each other. This might seem foolhardy but they’ve all moved to the town to start their new careers on the training scheme together and are unhappy with the places they’ve been living in. House prices are shooting up, they couldn’t hope to buy on their own and they’re afraid if they don’t take this opportunity they’ll never get another one. Soon after moving in, however, their differences begin to show.
When they find the body they have a much bigger decision to make. After much argument they agree not to report their discovery because each has reasons from their past not to trust the police. And this choice leads to so many others.
Which brings me on to my second theme – trust. When they’re considering buying the house together Stuart suggests having a contract but Imogen says, “No need for that. We trust each other, don’t we?” But as the story unfolds they become more and more distrustful of each other so that not only are they potential police suspects, they live in a climate of escalating mutual suspicion.
But at the same time, they depend on each other to evade capture. When they make the decision about the body Zak says, “We have to agree on this. Whatever we do, we have to stick together and see it through.” They take responsibility for different aspects of the operation. They rehearse their stories over and over. But before long they’re also withholding information from each other, questioning each other’s behaviour and they’re all terrified of being abandoned by the others and left to face justice alone.
Obviously bound up with the first two is the theme of truth – secrets and lies are an inevitable consequence of the decisions they make. As they cover up one truth, they find themselves having to lie about another. And they’re wondering who else is lying?
Coming of age
It’s also a story about entering the adult world and having to deal with situations they’d never faced before. This is the start of their career as journalists. It means the world to them and they don’t want to lose their jobs. Homeowning is also something new – paying a mortgage together would be stressful without the addition of finding a body! They have to find ways of dealing with their situation to ensure that they have some kind of future.
The Suspects is published by Crooked Cat Books on Friday May 10th– tomorrow! Find out more and have some fun by coming to the online launch party over on Facebook on this link
About the author:
Katharine Johnson grew up in Bristol and now lives in Berkshire. She’s worked as a journalist on lots of magazines and has written a history book. When not writing you’ll find her with a book in one hand and a coffee in the other, restoring a house in Italy, walking her spaniel or playing netball (although not usually at the same time.)