One June evening Manchester teenager Allie Kennaway heads off to her school end of year prom, cheered on by her dad Steve and little sister Teagan. But she never comes home, beaten to death because of her transgender identity. This family’s grief, another parent’s suspicion and the misplaced loyalty of another are at the centre of this crime novel The Girl in the Green Dress (Constable £19.99, also available as ebook) by the award-winning writer, also known for the Scott & Bailey books based on the TV series.
From this book to your Scott & Bailey novels, the domestic plays almost as important a part as the procedural. What’s your thinking there?
For me, the characters and their relationships are at the heart of any story. The detectives are people too with family and friends and all the baggage that brings, their lives don’t start and stop with the investigation. Including the domestic world gives a deeper and more realistic dimension to the narrative.
Many crime novels stem from exceptionally cunning crimes or exceptionally ruthless criminals. This results from an almost thoughtless hate crime by almost ordinary people. What did that help you achieve with the book?
Hopefully a sense of recognition or there-but-for-the-grace… Most crimes are committed by ordinary people like you and me who make the wrong choice, often in the heat of the moment – not by sinister super-villains or monsters. I’m interested in looking at the sort of crime that might happen to any one of us, the human cost it exacts and how crimes affect both victims and perpetrators.
This is a crime novel but it’s not a whodunit. What’s the secret to maintaining the suspense in such a book?
I wish I knew! Perhaps the suspense comes from us wanting to see justice done and the risk that the killers might get away with the crime. The police are working hard to solve the murder but are frustrated at every turn while the bereaved family are absolutely devastated, reeling from their loss. Identifying with their plight will bring a sense of urgency to the hunt for the truth and a longing for resolution.
Does Manchester offer you something special as a setting for crime novels or is it just where you happen to set some of them?
I love Manchester, in all its grit and grime and glamour, and all but one of my novels are set in the city. The urban landscape offers an endless supply of locations and the rich mix of people means I can find lots of diverse characters to write about. The way we interact here, the humour, warmth and banter feeds directly into my dialogue. And the tensions of inequality and social injustice are fertile ground for crime stories. Through the books I get to chart the changes in the city and my pride and pleasure and sometime sorrows and frustrations at living here.
Does crime fiction still get a bad press from the literary world or have things moved on?
We’ve had several crime novels on the Booker shortlist now and a winner with Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, though there seems to be a reluctance to use the crime fiction label in some quarters. Funny that. There is some snobbery still but I ignore it. I’m a voracious reader and like many book lovers I read widely and devour any well-written story regardless of genre. I love to recommend books and every so often you’ll see me post a list of good reads on my blog to spread the word. There are some fantastic novels being written under the crime heading and who wouldn’t want to be an author working in one of the most popular genres?
You’re a founder member of Murder Squad, a virtual collective of northern crime writers. What do you have in common (apart, obviously, from crime and northernness)?
An excess of talent, obviously! And we’re all very modest – and lovely people too. We’re passionate about promoting crime fiction, and being in Murder Squad has given us opportunities to connect with readers at libraries and festivals as well as to publish anthologies of our short stories. We’ve becomes firm friends as well as partners in crime.
Jade Bradshaw’s an ambitious and smart police officer with an intriguing back story. Will we be reading more about her?
Oh, I hope so – though I’m not sure when or how at the moment. There’s a lot more of Jade to uncover – she fascinates me.
You’ve written a thriller with “girl” in the title. What an unusual thing to do…
I know, cutting edge or what!? You saw it here first. Hah. But anyone reading the book will see that there’s a deeper significance, a special resonance, to that pronoun which takes it beyond the simple publishing trend. It’s the perfect fit. And very close to my heart.