How do you describe the horror of losing someone to murder? In my job as a reporter I’ve witnessed the aftermath of violence on many occasions but it never loses its power to disturb. There is the grief, the rage. The sudden transformation of a person’s ordinary life into a nightmare, from which there is no escape. It’s hard to do peoples’ stories justice as a journalist, other than letting them speak, but in my first novel The Binding Song I wanted to convey the disturbance violence leaves in its wake by creating a world that is both alien and literally nightmare-ish. In other words, to go Gothic.
The story takes place in an isolated Norfolk prison. HMP Halvergate is a monstrous place, perhaps even more so for being based on research into the real prison service. It rises out of Halvergate Marshes, where mist seeps from the earth like smoke and a familiar landscape can quickly shift into something more dangerous. For it’s newest arrival, Dr Janet Palmer, the building also represents opportunity: a promotion to lead psychologist.
Janet knows it’s a prison with problems, but is unprepared for just how hostile HMP Halvergate becomes. Nobody will tell her what happened to the psychologist before her, and neither do they want to discuss the high suicide rate.
At the heart of Janet’s investigation into what is disturbing the inmates, are rumours of a pale, eyeless woman stalking the prisoners, intent on revenge. Is this a hallucination, a ghost, or something worse?
There are many dark possibilities for the nightmare’s creation at Halvergate – after all it’s a prison where people are trapped, forced to deal with the fallout of what they’ve done.
When normal life is torn apart, there’s no telling what might appear through the cracks.
The Binding Song is published by Hodder & Stoughton in paperback on 22nd February 2018