It’s a welcome return for No Bodies author Robert Crouch today. Robert previously wrote a smashing guest post for Linda’s Book Bag, all about how his own blog helped his writing, that you can read here. Today’s post is a fascinating insight into how Robert has created his Kent Fisher Mysteries.
No Bodies was published on 19th October 2017 and is available for purchase here.
No motive. No connection.
Why would environmental health officer, Kent Fisher, show any interest in finding Daphne Witherington, the missing wife of a longstanding family friend?
The police believe she ran off with Colin Miller, a rather dubious caterer, and Kent has problems of his own when a young girl who visits his animal sanctuary is rushed to hospital.
When enquiries into Colin Miller reveal a second missing wife, Kent picks up a trail that went cold over a year ago. But he’s struggling to find a connection between the women, even when he discovers a third missing wife.
Is there a killer on the loose in Downland?
With no motive, no connection and no bodies, Kent may never uncover the truth.
No police. No private eye. No murder.
A Guest Post by Robert Crouch
No police. No private eye. No murder.
It’s hardly the most obvious way to break into today’s busy crime fiction market, but then again a grey-haired spinster from St Mary Mead was hardly conventional, was she?
When you’re faced with shelf after shelf of police procedurals, serial killer thrillers and private eye novels, you know it’s going to be difficult to come up with something fresh and original.
Inspired by the likes of Miss Marple and Inspector Morse, the urge to write a crime series gripped me so tight, I spent most of my waking hours thinking about devilish plots and the elusive protagonist who would unravel them.
It didn’t take long to realise I knew next to nothing about how the police went about solving crimes. Having worked with the police in my job as an environmental health officer (EHO), I had a reasonable understanding of the conventions and rules that governed them, but little else.
“The police would never do that!” I would shout at the TV when procedures were broken or ignored in crime dramas.
Such transgressions might be good for the story, but credibility’s crucial. Without it, how can authors expect readers to trust them?
Authors like Peter James spend a lot of time with the police to understand how they work, to discover the atmosphere and nature of the people who protect us and solve crimes. Ex-police officers who write crime stories can bring the telling details and insights that I could never hope to produce.
No, if I was going to write crime, there could be no police.
Enter Sue Grafton. After following her feisty private eye, Kinsey Millhone, through much of the alphabet, starting with A is for Alibi, the answer seemed clear. Crime fiction and drama had produced many private detectives across the decades, from the iconic Sherlock Holmes to the curious Dirk Gently.
Surely there was room for another.
The thought prompted me to develop characters who were ex-army or ex-police, people who could handle themselves in a brawl or under pressure. But after writing a few drafts these gung-ho, macho heroes seemed empty and uninteresting. And authors more talented than me had already populated crime fiction with enough cynical, world weary detectives.
Sadly, I had to say no to private eyes, despite my fondness for Kinsey.
That left me with murders. I’d watched enough crime dramas to know it was almost impossible to have a murder that didn’t involve the police. The thought of having ponderous police officers arresting the wrong suspect, as often happened in Murder She Wrote, didn’t appeal. Police officers do a difficult and complex enough job without authors tarnishing their abilities.
That left the tried and trusted plots, like a wrongly imprisoned person, a suicide that was really murder, or a historical crime that had never been solved. While these offered opportunities, I wondered if these scenarios had become a little clichéd over the years.
With a weary sigh, I turned off the computer. My determination to bring something fresh and original to crime fiction left me with no police, no private eye and no murder.
Perhaps not the finest start to my crime writing career.
Then one evening, as I reflected on a gruelling and emotional day, investigating a workplace accident that resulted in the death of an employee, an idea crept out of my subconscious.
What if someone could disguise a murder as a fatal work accident?
The police would attend, as the national protocol demands, but if the inspector in charge dismisses corporate manslaughter, an EHO would then carry out the investigation.
Cue Kent Fisher and my first murder mystery, No Accident.
After the first few pages, it had no police, no private detective and on the surface no murder. But would readers find the story and characters credible? Could an EHO, with no training or experience in investigating crime, solve a complex and baffling murder?
To start with I couldn’t find a way to solve the case. Maybe I’d created the perfect murder. Then a publisher took an interest in the idea. This gave me the spur to find a solution, which thankfully I did.
When No Accident was published, I held my breath, worried what readers would make of the story. Fortunately, readers liked the fresh and original approach. It provided a welcome change from the usual police procedural.
One reviewer said, ‘I was fascinated by the way Robert Crouch demonstrated how a seemingly ordinary member of the public could become what is best described as a Private Eye.’
It made my day.
It meant environmental health officer, Kent Fisher, could go out and solve more cases. He could also offer readers a glimpse into his world, both as an environmentalist and someone who works to protect and improve public health.
In No Bodies, the second novel, a devastating case of E coli O157 threatens to destroy Kent Fisher’s animal sanctuary, his reputation, and derail his struggle to find the missing wife of a longstanding family friend. The evidence suggests she ran off with a younger man, a rather dubious caterer, it seems.
‘Do I look like Hercule Poirot?’ Kent asks, initially refusing to take the case.
No, but he knows about catering, and it isn’t long before he senses foul play.
About Robert Crouch
Inspired by Miss Marple, Inspector Morse and Columbo, Robert Crouch wanted to write entertaining crime fiction the whole family could enjoy.
At their heart is Kent Fisher, an environmental health officer with more baggage than an airport carousel. Passionate about the environment, justice and fair play, he’s soon embroiled in murder.
Drawing on his experiences as an environmental health officer, Robert has created a new kind of detective who brings a unique and fresh twist to the traditional murder mystery. With complex plots, topical issues and a liberal dash of irreverent humour, the Kent Fisher mysteries offer an alternative to the standard police procedural.
Robert now writes full time and lives on the South Coast of England with his wife and their West Highland White Terrier, Harvey, who appears in the novels as Kent’s sidekick, Columbo.
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