INVERNESS lawyer Helen Forbes is turning to crime — but in a way that keeps her on the right side of the law.
Forbes, a civil litigation solicitor specialising in social welfare law, gets into darker criminal territory with her novel In The Shadow of The Hill, a murder mystery set in Inverness and the rugged beauty of south Harris.
These are both places that Forbes, who was brought up in the Lochardil area of Inverness, knows well.
A veterinary nurse in Inverness and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh before she retrained in Law, she has also lived in Fife and the Outer Hebrides where she edited award-winning community newspaper Am Paipear.
She has also been an active member of the Highland Literary Salon since she returned to Inverness five and a half years ago, but the novel owes its existence to another writers’ group in Edinburgh.
Forbes, who would cross the Forth to attend while she was living in Fife, read a story to the group about two boys and it was one of her fellow writers who suggested it would be good to find out what happened to them when they grew up.
That story is now the prologue of In The Shadow of The Hill, which answers the question of what happened to the two boys.
"It was just a short story with no idea of Harris, just an island with no identification. When I expanded it into a novel, because there is a hill mentioned in the short story, I had a think about where there is a distinctive hill and that area of Harris just happened to fit."
Developing the story from a few pages into a full length novel also saw Forbes, who admits she is very fond of crime fiction, develop the tale into a crime story.
At a time when it seems every location in Scotland has its own successful crime series, from Aline Templeton’s DI Marjory Fleming books in Dumfries to Ann Cleeves’s Jimmy Perez stories set in Shetland, there seems to be something of a vacancy in Inverness itself.
So might we see a bit more of Forbes’s Detective Sergeant Joe Galbraith?
"It would be quite good to develop that," she acknowledged.
"It’s just difficult finding time with a day job."
However, the demands of her day job have not prevented Forbes from seeing publication in Highland writing magazine Northwords Now and the Global Shorts Anthology or being commended by the Highland and Island Short Story Association, Neil Gunn Writing Competition and Scottish Association of Writers.
She even self-published an earlier novel, but later withdrew it from publication, deciding that she was not totally happy with the finished work.
This time, she is being published by new Scottish publisher ThunderPoint, who share with Forbe’s novel a Hebridean link, being based in South Uist.
"When I first looked at ThunderPoint publishing online, it said their registered offices were in Edinburgh, so I hadn’t appreciated that they were in South Uist, so it was just a coincidence, but it’s worked out quite well," she said.
"It’s so hard published nowadays that I was just pleased to have some interest in it and some people have said that a small publisher can actually give you more time and more of their expertise at the beginning and certainly ThunderPoint have been very helpful."
• Helen Forbes will launch In The Shadow of The Hill at Waterstones Inverness branch in the Eastgate Centre on Thursday 6th November at 6pm, where she will read an extract, answer questions and sign copies.
In The Shadow of The Hill is released by ThunderPoint Publishing in ebook and paperback.