I’ve been carrying around central theme of GLASS HOUSES for years. More than a decade in fact. I’ve been thinking about it, considering it, waiting for it to ripen. Waiting for the characters, the plot, all the elements to align. And finally, it has.
Let me tell you where it began. As with most huge events, it began as a small aside. Almost lost in the back and forth of conversation and reminiscences that happen when old friends get together. In this case, the old friend was Richard Oliver, one of my husband Michael’s great friends from this Cambridge days together. Michael went on to become a doctor in Québec. Richard went on to work for the Financial Times in Madrid.
Both retired after successful careers, we’d visit each other now and then. On one visit to Canada, Richard told us about something he’d stumbled across. A particularly Spanish phenomenon called the Cobrador del Frac. This was a person all dressed in formal attired. Top hat, tails. Like something, someone, out of another time. He carried a briefcase. And he was hired to follow people. He’d stand outside their homes. Follow them to work. Stand outside their business, and when they left for lunch, the Cobrador would walk a few paces behind and stand vigil outside the restaurant. Never approaching the person. Never speaking.
The people they followed were debtors. And the Cobrador was a conscience. There to shame, to humiliate, that person into paying their debt. The image, the act, was so extraordinary, I filed it away. And waited, for the Cobrador to show up in one of my novels.
And he does. Finally. In GLASS HOUSES he appears in Three Pines, to collect a debt. But as Chief Superintendent Gamache discoveres, it’s not a monetary debt he is there for, but a moral one.
Glass Houses is published by Little Brown