Today, I’m delighted to welcome talented crime writer, Alice Castle, ahead of the release of her latest novel tomorrow. Alice has joined me to discuss the themes of her new thriller.
Over to you, Alice…
Hi Jo, thanks so much for having me on your blog to talk about the themes behind my latest novel, The Perfect Widow.
The Perfect Widow is quite a departure for me. I’ve written seven cozy crime novels, starting with Death in Dulwich, which are gently humorous whodunits set in a ‘yummy mummy’ world. The Perfect Widow is, by contrast, a chilling read about a woman who may or may not be a ruthless killer.
Although the books are quite different in tone, they do all explore some central themes I find really compelling. I am fascinated by the fact that we all tell lies, to protect ourselves or our families. Often these are unconscious, and harmless. Sometimes they are not. I’m also always interested to know how far people will go to preserve a life they love. I like to push my characters to extremes and see what they will do – so that we don’t have to go there ourselves!
I’ve long been a fan of the domestic noir genre. Ever since reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier I’ve been intrigued by what goes on at the centre of the home. It should be the place where we feel safest but often, very sadly, it turns out to be the most dangerous place in the world. Statistics show that three women a week are currently being killed in the UK by their partners. These crimes usually occur behind closed doors.
As well as hopefully providing people with a gripping read, domestic thrillers often provide a mirror to things that should, or should not, be happening to readers themselves. They can be a guide to forms of abuse and control that are not right, but which can be hard to spot from the inside. Partners who exercise coercive control, for instance, often ramp it up very slowly, so that by the time the situation becomes entrenched, it is difficult for its victim to see it clearly for what it is, much less escape. We often shut our eyes to what may or may not be happening in other peoples’ relationships – the ‘clumsy’ friends who are always walking into doors, for instance – but domestic noir books can help by sounding alarm bells.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that most writers of, and readers of, domestic noir are women. We know this stuff from the inside out. We live it. Why, then, do we still consider it entertainment? The shock of the twist, the bump of your heart rate as the heroine faces peril – it is all designed to be unrelaxing. But there is always a denouement, and I haven’t read a psychological thriller yet where the perpetrator gets off scot-free. In a world where rapists and abusers routinely escape justice, it’s no wonder that we find this sort of ending supremely satisfying. I hope readers will enjoy my own contribution to the genre!
Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a feature writer on national newspapers including the Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. She writes psychological thrillers for HQDigital under the name A.M. Castle and the Death in Dulwich cozy crime series for Darkstroke/Crooked Cat as Alice Castle. Alice loves talking to readers, find her on Twitter @AliceMCastle, or her website http://www.alicecastleauthor.com. She lives in south east London with two children and two cats.