What inspires me is place. When I visit somewhere new I find myself imagining what might have happened there and whether the essence of those events remain somehow, marking it out as a place of happiness or tragedy, or fear. My grandmother (who was very level-headed otherwise) strongly believed that to be the case: for instance, she pronounced the derelict Victorian schoolhouse that my parents restored to be a happy place, whereas a notable stretch of road nearby she drove miles out of her way to avoid.
I lived on the Inishowen peninsula in County Donegal for eleven years and practiced as a solicitor there, and like my protagonist Ben (Benedicta) O’Keeffe, I ran the most northerly solicitor’s practice in Ireland. Remote and beautiful with towering headlands, windswept beaches, ancient forts and a sea-ravaged coastline, when I began to write crime novels, I knew they could not be set anywhere else.
While my first book Death at Whitewater Church opened in a crypt beneath a deconsecrated church, the second book in the series Treacherous Strand begins on a beach overlooking Trawbreaga Bay (trá bréige – the Irish for treacherous strand), so named because of its dangerous and unpredictable tides.
A woman’s body washes up on the beach, partially-clothed, with a strange tattoo on her thigh. She is identified as Marguerite Etienne, a French woman who has been living in the area. Her death is dismissed as the suicide of a disturbed and lonely woman. Solicitor Ben O’Keeffe is not convinced. Marguerite was her client. Disturbed by what appears to be chilling local indifference to her death, Ben pieces together the last few weeks of Marguerite’s life in Inishowen.
A “blow-in” herself, what Ben discovers causes her to question the fragile nature of her own position in the area. She also finds herself having to confront the ghosts of her own past. But her past is not about to let her go so easily…
Treacherous Strand is the second in the Inishowen Mysteries series and is published on 4th April 2017.