The idea for Far Cry came from a conversation with the novelist Jill Dawson, over coffee at the British Library. Jill lives in the Cambridgeshire Fens, close to the village of Soham, where two young girls were abducted and murdered – a crime which had repercussions nationwide, but especially in the local community – and, partly in response to those events, Jill had written a novel, Watch Me Disappear [Sceptre, 2006], in which a young woman returns from America for her brother’s wedding and is beset by thoughts and memories of her own upbringing and the disappearance, decades before, of her 10 year old friend.
When we met, the disappearance of Madeleine McCann was very much in the news, and there was some criticism of the ways in which her parents were using the media, along with unsubstantiated rumours that they might in some way be involved in what had happened.
What Jill and I talked about, in the main, was the effect that losing a child in such circumstances might have on that child’s parents, and I went away from our meeting with the germ of an idea for a new book, one which would be based upon the very different responses and actions of parents whose child has died suddenly or disappeared.
I let the idea sit for some time [I was working on something else] and eventually came up with the character of Ruth, a middle-class woman, a primary school teacher, who, somewhat against her better judgement, allows her daughter to go on holiday in Cornwall with friends – a holiday which results in the girl’s accidental death. The story would follow Ruth through the break-up of her marriage as a result of this tragedy, into a new, apparently more stable relationship and the birth of another child, another girl, during all of which time, however, she is haunted by memories of her first daughter. Then, of course, this being a crime novel, something terrible has to happen – or seem to happen – and the truth of what occurred years before is called into question.
The other decision I made at quite an early stage was that the police detectives involved would be Will Grayson and Helen Walker, who had previously appeared in Gone to Ground – this because Will has young children of his own and so his reactions would be particularly intense. It also meant I could set part of the story in the Fens and another part on the Cornish moors and coast – two areas that, though markedly different geographically, share a sense of wildness and desolation that is rare in England.
Far Cry is publshed by Heinemann