[I recently wrote the following as a guest blog on Marissa de Luna’s explorations of the travails of the would-be writer, the delightfully named The Coffee Stained Manuscript. My regular readers may be interested too.]
I never intended to write a murder mystery. The Amazon’s Girdle began as a love story, with former film-star Jacques, mouldering in a corner of the Michelin-starred Paris restaurant he runs with his wife Louise, remembering his all-too-brief time with the Amazon, the one woman he truly loved. But she died. I realized, rather belatedly, I had to decide how.
A natural death, by cancer say, was out – Eric Segal and “love is never having to say you’re sorry” (what rubbish!) had done that. Death in childbirth was possible, but my Amazon was a medical doctor, so improbable; and in any case, I didn’t want to deal with the concomitant inevitable guilt. A road accident seemed too facile. Suicide was out. Murder suddenly became essential to the story: it was the obvious way for someone as strong as my original heroine to disappear from the scene; she’d never have bowed out for anything less.
This was a bit of a blow. I had a small cast of characters, but now I had to decide which of them was a murderer. Each one might have had a motive, but how is it that all are carrying on with their lives 17 years later? What happened? Was it perhaps one of those murders that went undetected?
Who dunnit? And who decides to investigate this late in the day? And why? Inevitably, it had to be the young daughter of the doomed love affair between Jacques and the Amazon, inspired by her own heroine, the beautiful and malicious French film-star Madeleine Marvell, who deliberately sets out to disrupt the apparently peaceful and successful life of her former husband Jacques. Complicated? I’d say. But then murder mysteries usually are. And MM makes a delicious villain.
Given the way this story evolved in my head, it is clear that the book is not structured like a classic murder mystery. Working out whodunnit, I think, is not difficult for those who enjoy the challenge. But the motivations of all possible suspects are psychologically sound, and several reviewers have said they were surprised, even shocked at the outcome. Which is hugely gratifying!
Would I ever write another murder mystery? I’d have said NO, until I launched this one into the amazon.co.uk ether (where else?). It’s been fun. So when I have finished my quiet psychological novels (The Porcupine’s Dilemma is now with an agent), I might dip another toe in those dangerous waters.