Russell, Leigh: Cold Sacrifice, A Detective Ian Peterson Mystery
by Leigh Russell
Publish date: April 29th
Publisher: WitnessImpulse an imprint of HarperCollins
Event Organized: Literati Author Services
When three dead bodies are discovered in Detective Ian Peterson’s hometown of Kent, it becomes clear that a vicious killer is on the loose. And without his trusted colleague, Detective Geraldine Steel, by his side Ian’s left to take the lead on a complex murder case with few clues.
The first victim is a middle-aged woman named Martha brutally stabbed to death in the local park. Her husband, who does not report her missing, is the prime suspect until a young prostitute, Della, reveals his whereabouts the night Martha was murdered. But then she is strangled to death in her apartment. While the police are frantically gathering evidence and looking for a connection, a second prostitute is suffocated.
With nothing but the timing of the murders to tie the three women to each other, Ian and his new partner, Polly Mortimer, struggle to make sense of the case and find the elusive killer before he strikes again. But, by the time Ian realizes the truth, it may be too late to save Polly.
Bookish Pet Peeves
One of my pet peeves as a reader is books that are liberally sprinkled with bad language. It’s not so much that I find swear words offensive in themselves, but they are lazy language. Anyone who aspires to be called a writer has a duty to at least try to write well, and choose the most appropriate words to express what they want to say. Even specific words, where the meaning is relatively clear, can be at best open to interpretation, and frequently ambiguous. What do most swear words actually mean? As a professional author, earning my living from writing fiction, I spend a lot of time thinking about the words I use. That said, I do use foul language in dialogue, where a character’s speech might not seem authentic without it. Many people swear in their everyday speech. I’ve been known to let the odd swear word slip out myself. But when I’m writing in my own voice, I never resort to bad language. As an author, I strive to do better than that.
Another of my pet peeves in literature is gratuitous violence. It is often overused with the sole intention of shocking readers, especially in crime fiction. This, again, is lazy writing by authors who use shock tactics in place of strong story lines with engaging characters. The same is true of gratuitous sex in books. Of course there are violent episodes in my own novels. I write murder mysteries. Glossing over violence, and pretending it is unimportant, rather than evil, is as bad as including it unnecessarily. As a crime writer, I try to pay due respect to the suffering of my murdered victims, and the loved ones they leave behind, while not dwelling on violent death more than is necessary or appropriate. This is a tough judgement call, but an important one. Not everyone will agree that I find the right balance, but I like to feel I have tried my best.
Many people read crime fiction because they want to try and work out the identity of the murderer before the writer reveals it. There are a lot of skilled authors who contrive to stay one step ahead of their readers, like the brilliant US author Jeffery Deaver. Books that are loosely termed ‘crime fiction’ in the UK are known as ‘mysteries’ in the US, reflecting the popularity of this kind of puzzle. I succeed in pulling off this kind of mystery in some of my books. In others, the reader is told who the killer is long before my detectives track the villain down, sometimes from the first page of the book. This builds a different kind of tension, as readers are on the edge of their seats waiting for my detective to crack the mystery before another victim is claimed. The great Conan Doyle, creator of the immortal Sherlock Holmes, was another master of the puzzle, giving his readers all the clues they needed to work out how the crime was committed, while still keeping them guessing. It’s increasingly hard to fool readers. Most of my own fans are very sophisticated readers of the genre, and I really struggle to stay one step ahead of them. One of my pet peeves is authors who withhold vital ‘evidence’ from their readers until the final denouement, so that no one could possibly work out the puzzle for themselves.
My final pet peeve is books that have either too many characters, or too convoluted a plot – some books fall into both categories. Of course this is an entirely subjective judgement. I don’t mind working hard to follow a storyline, but don’t enjoy feeling overwhelmed by confusing information. It may be that I’m just not that clever, but I believe a master story teller can tell a complex story simply enough for anyone to understand.
About the Author
LEIGH RUSSELL is described as “a brilliant talent” by Jeffery Deaver. CUT SHORT (2009) was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award for Best First Novel. Road Closed (2010) was listed as a Top Read on Eurocrime. With Dead End (2011) Leigh’s detective Geraldine Steel was Number 1 on amazon kindle’s bestseller chart for female sleuths. Leigh Russell is the award-winning author of the Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson mysteries. She is an English teacher who lives in the UK with her family.