I am flying home from Finland, wondering what fellow travelers around me in the cabin would think if they knew what images were flashing through my mind.
In about a month, the first of my Flavia de Luce novels, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie will be published in Finnish by Bazar, and I have just made an appearance at a Crime Night, held in the old library in Helsinki Centre, along with Scandinavian crime novelists Stefan Tegenfalk and Christian Rönnbacka, and compère, Stig-Björn Nyberg. Stefan and Christian have both been frequently mentioned as successors to Stieg Larsson.
After the presentation to a large and enthusiastic audience of librarians, booksellers and journalists, we are sitting around talking shop as mystery writers invariably do, and I am emboldened by Barry Forshaw’s probings into Nordic Noir to ask: "Where do these ever more ghastly killings come from that we read about in the headlines? Do real-life murderers take their cues from our writings in detective fiction?’
I suggest that one of the essential ingredients of a bestselling thriller is the appearance of a grisly object in a most unexpected —and often peaceful — place. After that, it’s all just narrative. I cite as an example Alex Grecian’s recent The Black Country, in which a human eyeball is discovered in a bird’s nest.
‘Let’s say that we dream up, here and now, a hypothetical but horrific image, such as a killer who cuts out his mother’s heart and attaches it, as a pendulum, to his cuckoo-clock. Will someone, next year, carry out this idea in reality?’
We kick the idea around for a few minutes, and then Christian — an ex police officer — says: "In real life, this cutting out of a mother’s heart and the attaching of it to the pendulum of a cuckoo-clock would be little more than the tip of the iceberg.’
In real life, he tells us, there are individuals around the world, in constant touch with one another by Internet, who gather to participate together in far more ghoulish delights.
We all shiver.
I look around me in the plane. Are there any psychics on the flight who have picked up the image of the pendulum heart and the oddly ticking cuckoo-clock?
Evidently not. We all appear to be normal.
How will Flavia fare in Finland?
In rather an odd way, I think she will feel quite at home.
The Dead in their Vaulted Arches is published by Orion