Dying to Know is a crime novel about particle physics. It is a new departure for me, a standalone, and not part of my Sister Agnes series. At this stage I would say, ‘it all started when…’ but I can’t actually remember when it became a story. All I know is that for some years I’ve been fascinated by particle physics, and that this gradually grew into a more specific idea about the stories we tell ourselves and what happens when they become dangerous.
The story centres around a particle collider in the marshy coastal areas of the Kent countryside, and it starts when one of the physicists is found drowned, having been pushed from an old ruined look-out tower. When a second, then a third, physicist is found dead in similar circumstances, it starts to look as if there is a serial killer on the loose, one who has a grudge against the collider and its science. It is up to DI Berenice Killick to track down this person before they strike again. But what has lured all three men to the tower? And what is the connection between these deaths and an old alchemy book, kept by one of the dead men and now somehow blamed for his death by his widow?
Berenice Killick came about because I wanted to write something more realistic about detective work. Sister Agnes as an amateur detective is all very well, positioned as she is on the rougher side of South London life, but in fact, most murder is investigated by people whose job it is to do so. In Dying to Know, there are other protagonists too: the local vicar, Chad Meyrick, and his wife Helen; and Virginia, the widow of one of the dead physicists.
Research for the book took me to CERN, to visit the Large Hadron Collider. It was one of the most fascinating days I’ve ever spent, standing in the control room of the ATLAS experiment when it was live and the two colliding beams were visible on the screens. This experiment was part of the quest to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson, the discovery of which was subsequently announced. The fact that this happened during the writing of my book meant a flurry of emails between me and various helpful physicists, and a hasty re-writing of the science in the novel.
The fascination with physics, for me, is about the telling of stories, and the Big Bang is one of the best Once Upon A Times we humans have ever come up with, to rank with some of the more ancient versions of ‘In the Beginning’. With Dying to Know, I set out to explore ideas about evidence, faith, love, and the telling of stories. As a crime writer, I hope that at the end of my story my reader will close the book with an enjoyable sense of resolution. But those stories, of Creation, of the Big Bang, are still being told.
Dying to Know is published in Kindle format by Endeavour Press.