What would you do if you found your husband in the kitchen in the middle of the night, blood on his hands, drunk and raving about having killed someone? This is the situation that confronts Kate Forman at the beginning of my debut thriller, Wink Murder.
Kate’s an ordinary woman who’s married well, has two children and a part time job on a TV “true crime” programme. She thinks she’s lucky, loves the status quo and will go to great lengths to preserve it. But this troubling incident, which the morning after her husband Paul brushes off as the inevitable result of too much booze, won’t go away. When a young and attractive researcher at her husband’s TV company is found dead, what Kate does is begin to delve into what really happened to Paul that night and if he is somehow involved in murder.
The germ of the idea for this book came when I was in the Stansted airport bookshop one summer, looking for some holiday reading. What I love about thrillers is the compulsive desire they create in the reader to just keep turning the pages no matter how late it is, the anticipation of the plot twists and the build-up to a grand thumping finale, but after reading through that holiday I felt uninspired by the cynical cops battling gruesome serial killers. I wanted to read a book rooted in a world that I understood: families, marriages, the city in daylight. I wanted to take our most familiar surroundings and turn them into something challenging.
In my book I wanted to take an ordinary woman in the place she feels safest – her suburban kitchen – and throw her into an extreme situation. I wanted to shake her out of her complacency about her life and get her fighting, because only when people are pushed to the limit do we know what they’re capable of. But Kate’s not battling a faceless enemy – as she starts to question those closest to her she begins to realise that those she thinks she knows the best may be just the people who can harm her the most.
One evening soon after the researcher has been killed Kate and Paul have some friends over for a meal. Paul suggests they play Wink Murder, a child’s game where Kate ends up having to play the detective and guess who is ‘murdering’ the other guests by winking at them. What starts off as a silly drunken game turns into a battle with her husband that become laden with meaning as she realises she has no idea what secrets her husband may be keeping from her – and why.
The deadly recriminations that surface after a meal with friends sums up the fascination I have with what motives and secrets really lie beneath our most common social interactions and within our closest relationships: be it those between husband and wife, mother and child, or sisters.
My book leaves you with the question: how well do you know the people you’re closest to?
Wink Murder is published by Hodder & Stoughton