We are all scared of something. Alone, in the silent hours, we listen for the scrabbling beneath the bed, the insistent tugging on the sheets, the creaking open of the wardrobe door. Whether we fear the illogical (spiders), the improbable (ghosts) or the unlikely (loss of a loved one) we all, in the back of our minds, have a dark cupboard that we dare not open. And the more scared we become, the more vulnerable we are – to the whispered deception and the insidious erosion of courage, until we reach the point at which terror can no longer be contained, when it breaks free of its restraints and begins to override reason.
Dead Scared is the story of needy and insecure young women, in a new and unsettling environment, who are preyed upon by those who not only know these girls’ deepest fears, but are prepared to exploit them to the bitterest end. These people, practising a new kind of evil, believe themselves invulnerable. Not because they are cleverer than most, (although they believe that too,) but because everything they do is at a distance.
Dead Scared had its origins in my hearing about cyber bullying and internet trolling, about real-life cases in which people have been pushed into taking their own lives by those with whom they have only a virtual relationship. Criminal charges in such cases are too rare and too lenient and so these cyber killers believe themselves to be invulnerable; sadly society seems determined to collude.
Dead Scared is my murder story in which, arguably, no murders take place. Without physical contact between victim and perpetrator, where is the crime? How can there be retribution? The death count in the book is high, alarmingly so; the victims conform to a type, as in all good stories of serial murder; the means by which people die are unusual and inventive, in the best spirit of crime fiction – but no murders have taken place. The victims are killing themselves.
And isn’t that just the perfect crime? To be able to select your victim, stalk her relentlessly, learn precisely her weaknesses and exactly which buttons to press and then stand back and enjoy the self-destruction?
Dead Scared is about people who are scared to the point at which they can, quite literally, take no more. It explores how vulnerable young women can be pushed so far along the road of utter terror that they will do anything, even take the most final, devastating step, to end the nightmare. It asks whether it is possible to scare someone to death.
Dead Scared is publshed by Bantam Press