Where the Truth Lies by M J Lee ** Blog Tour Author Interview**
Today I am pleased to welcome M J Lee to Books, Life and Everything to talk about his crime thriller novel, Where the Truth Lies. Before we meet him, here is a little about the book.
The case was closed. Until people started dying… The unputdownable first DI Ridpath crime thriller from bestseller MJ Lee
A killer in total control. A detective on the edge. A mystery that HAS to be solved.
DI Thomas Ridpath was on the up in the Manchester CID: a promising young detective whose first case involved capturing a notorious serial killer. But ten years later he’s recovering from a serious illness and on the brink of being forced out of the police. Then people start dying: tortured, murdered, in an uncanny echo of Ridpath’s first case.
As the investigation intensifies, old bodies go missing, records can’t be found and the murder count grows. Caught in a turf war between the police and the coroner’s office, digging up skeletons some would rather forget, Ridpath is caught in a race against time: a race to save his career, his marriage… And lives.
When a detective goes missing everything is on the line. Can Ridpath close the case and save his colleague?
Welcome to Books, Life and Everything.Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.
Hi Marianne, happy to be here and say a few words about Where the Truth Lies.
Would you like to start by telling us a little about yourself and how you started as a writer?
I’ve been a writer for most of my adult life, but not a novel writer. I worked in advertising fro over 25 years as a copywriter and creative director. Every day, I had to go into work and, in the blink of an eye, come up with creative solutions to business problems for clients. About four years ago, I was offered a new job and I had a chat with a headhunter who asked me what I really wanted to do with my future. Without a thought, I answered write novels. And now, here I am, with Where the Truth Lies being my eleventh book to be published, albeit my first contemporary novel.
What is it about the crime thriller genre which attracts you?
Great question. I think I’ve always be attracted to the moral element of crime fiction. In an increasingly grey world there’s a wonderful sense of right and wrong that we can return to in crime fiction. Plus I think it’s able to tackle some of the outstanding issues of the day - child abuse, violence against women, guilt, despair, rage, alienation in our society - in a way that doesn’t talk down to people but engages them in a story.
Writing the book as a mystery allows me to tackle all these subjects in an interesting and informative way (I hope) whilst, at the same time allowing the reader to escape for a moment into a world I have created.
Without giving away the plot, can you tell us a little about Where the Truth Lies?
Where the Truth Lies is set in contemporary Manchester. The main character, DI Thomas Ridpath has just returned to work after cancer treatment and is assigned to a less stressful job (supposedly) as a Coroner’s Officer. The first case he has to investigate involves a serial killer called the Beast of Manchester, a man who Ridpath helped put in jail. The conviction is questioned and the coroner is asked to re-open the inquest. Unfortunately when Ridpath exhumes the body of Alice Seagram, one of the Beast’s victims, the coffin is empty. Ridpath is thrust into a race against time to discover the truth before more victims are murdered. Is the Beast of Manchester behind bars or is he still on the loose?
How do you describe the central character, DI Thomas Ridpath? Did you base him on anyone you have met?
Ridpath had been a copper for ten years, recently promoted to Detective Inspector leading a team, when he fell ill. A diagnosis of Myeloma, bone cancer, meant a long and lonely spell of chemo and recovery. He loves his job, finding in it a meaning for his life and a moral certainty. Put quite simply, his job is to put bad guys away, using all the tools of intelligence and modern policing at his disposal. It is this honesty that leads him to question the truth of his first arrest; James Dalbey, aka the Beast of Manchester. And once that happens, nothing will stop him in his quest to discover the truth. Unfortunately this monomania leads him into conflict with his Chinese wife, Polly, who believes he should put her and their daughter, Eve, first. It’s in trying to balance these two tensions; the personal and the professional parts of his life that we see Ridpath’s true character. He’s not based on anybody particular I know.
Where the Truth Lies is the first in a proposed series. How do you manage planning for a series of books?
I have written other series and I think the planning happens organically, coming out of the nature of the characters that inhabit the books. The stories want to tell themselves. Ridpath is in an unusual situation; working for both the Greater Manchester Police and the Coroner, allowing him to see a case from more than one angle. This allows me, the writer, to tell his story and deal with unusual deaths in an original manner different form the normal police procedural. At the moment, there are four more Ridpath stories waiting to be written. It’s just a question of finding the time to get them down on paper.
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
I’m I’m quite methodical, probably because I was at one time a researcher in history as well as my background in advertising. For this novel there were four main areas, I wanted to become proficient in; the Coronial System, the police force, modern forensic science , and the treatment of cancer.
First, I read general books on the legal system, with particular emphasis on the Coroner’s courts. They were founded just after the Norman Conquest in 1066, created then as servants of the crown (hence coroners) to separate the investigation of death from the legal process of judgment. Not a lot has changed since then. I spent quite a lot of time attending inquests to get a feel for the language and the procedure. I then researched the modern police forces of the UK, who I’m sure you’re aware have come under immense pressure in the last few years, talking with ex-members of the GMP, Scene of Crime Officers and police support workers.
To understand the modern forensic science methods, I attended courses on pathology, the science behind DNA, facial reconstruction, and read extensively in the subject. Finally, I researched the field of cancer. Luckily, Manchester has one of the world’s leading research and treatment hospitals, Christies, and I was able to find out from patient’s themselves what it felt like to be diagnosed and treated for Myeloma.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I love doing the research and finding out new ways to tackle a crime. So that’s the bit I find the easiest. Indeed, it’s often a problem telling myself to stop researching and get on with the writing! The hardest part for me is editing, but it’s also the most important part of the process. Somebody once said ‘ All writing is rewriting.’ This is so true. It’s a painful time when you’ve read the book ten times and you have to force yourself to do it an eleventh. But each time you do it, it becomes a better book for the reader.
Have you three words which sum up Where the Truth Lies?
I like to think it’s a gripping, thrilling, page-turner that rewards the reader for spending their valuable time with it.
Thanks for having me today!!
Thanks for talking in such detail about your work. It is obvious that you put a lot of planning and research into getting your stories right- very impressive!
About the Author
M J Lee has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a university researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, TV commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the north of England, in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning advertising awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and the United Nations.
While working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarters of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in the 1920s.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practising downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake, and wishing he were George Clooney.
Thanks to M J Lee and Ellie Pilcher Of Canelo for the interview and a place on the tour.
Check out the rest of the tour!