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Inverness writer Helen Forbes sets her latest thriller in Edinburgh featuring a young woman living in fear – scared to lose her 'perfect' life


By Margaret Chrystall

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Helen Forbes talks to Margaret Chrystall about her latest novel which was partly inspired by her own experience as a social welfare solicitor ...

Q Deception seems quite a departure from your previous crime and psychological thrillers – where did the idea come from and why did you decide to set it where you did?

A Deception started in my head with the character, Lily Andersen. Unusually for me, I could imagine her clearly, and I felt compelled to write her story. I lived in Edinburgh for eight years, and that’s where I began to write. I always wanted to set a story against the backdrop of the city. It’s such an interesting and special place for me.

Q Your lead character has some difficult challenges to cope with in Deception, one of those is dealing with domestic abuse. Why did you decide you wanted to look at that subject in this book?

A I was a social welfare solicitor for several years. I worked closely with Women’s Aid, and many of my clients were victims/survivors of domestic abuse, in all its forms, often with tragic consequences. It is far more common than people realise, and occurs regardless of class or financial position. I thought it a worthy subject for further exploration, including the difficulties people often have in leaving their abuser, a fact that is much misunderstood. The subject has come up in my previous books, but to a lesser extent, and it is also features in my next novel, Queen Of Grime. I think it fair to say that my work as a social welfare solicitor has influenced the themes in my writing to a huge extent.

Q Was this a book written during lockdown and if so, did that experience make its mark on it in any way?

A Deception was written some years ago, but I worked on it substantially during lockdown, following a professional edit. The editor suggested significant changes to the plot, including enhancing the character of David Gunn. That involved taking professional crime writing advice from a former police officer, which was very helpful. I was grateful to have my writing to work on during lockdown – it certainly helped to pass the time and take my mind off what was going on in the world.

Q It seems there might be a possibility that some of these very powerfully drawn characters – particularly Julie who plays a pivotal role in this book – might live on in a sequel. Is that something you might consider?

A Interestingly, Julie was originally a crime and trauma scene cleaner in Deception; however, there was just so much going on in the novel that I was unable to do justice to that particular line, and my editor suggested saving the crime scene cleaner story for another novel. Several people have mentioned Julie as a strong, likeable character, and I may now incorporate her into my latest project. Having said that, a sequel is not entirely out of the question …

Q What are you working on now – just a hint if you don’t want to give too much away!

A I have completed another thriller, also set in Edinburgh, and featuring a crime and trauma scene cleaner. The novel is called Queen Of Grime, and it’s a dark tale uplifted with some black humour. I’m now in the early stages of the second novel in what I hope will be a Queen Of Grime series.

Deception (Scolpaig Press) is out from Monday as a paperback (£9.99) and as an ebook (£2.99). More about Helen and her books: www.helenforbes.co.uk

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