For those of you who watch cookery programmes as often as I do, you will know that each dish has to have a range of flavour notes: the sweet, the savoury, the salty, the fresh… and the same is true of the key characters in a novel. They each have to bring something different to the story.
How many lives can one person ruin?
As well as the murder investigation, there is a parallel story of psychological coercion and manipulation – and this is why I understood the title of the book. Some aspects made for uncomfortable reading because it seemed so authentic and realistic. The characterisation was very well done and I did get emotionally involved – I always feel an author has done their job well when you care what happens to a character. There were some characters that made me so angry and others I just felt so sad for.My characters become so real to me that by the time the final edits are complete, and the book is out of my hands – published – I feel a sense of sadness that these people, who have inhabited my life for so long, are no longer with me.All this comes before I consider what they might look like. The final presentation – their appearance – can come later. But as soon as I know who they are, I begin to picture them and I scour Google Images until I find someone whose face matches the one in my imagination. I grab it so I won’t forget. I need to know the eye colour, the hair, the skin. I even want to know what they like to eat, drink, what kind of music they listen to.The first task when writing a novel is to decide on the key ingredient – the premise. What is the book going to be about? Initially that idea might consist of nothing more than a single sentence. For Close Your Eyes it was the thought of a young woman being accused of murder – with every piece of evidence pointing to her. That was all I had! At that point, I didn’t know if she had committed the murder or not. I knew I would discover exactly who had done what as I moved to the second stage of the process, the part where I begin to assemble the rest of my ingredients – the personalities that bring the novel to life.
Publisher: Black Dot Publishing Ltd
Available in ebook, audio, paperback (11 February 2021)
Source: Copy received from author for review
I must stick to the plan – the one I made the day I arrived in this city. My bag is packed. It always is. I will destroy every shred of evidence of my existence. The police must never find me. If they do, so will he.
With Martha’s chapters told in the first person and the rest of the story in the third, I felt as though I were being drawn in to Martha’s world and as events unfolded I had more questions needing answers. I had various scenarios going around in my head and I was desperate to know if I was right.
Don’t let him under your skin. He’ll destroy you.
Don’t fight him. He’ll win.
Run. Never let him find you.
The unique flavour of a credible character
ABOUT THE BOOK
Through flashback chapters, the reader is drip fed another story and what a harrowing and disturbing one it is. From the outset Martha comes across as super efficient but her detached and unfriendly manner makes her the subject of office gossip and not instantly likeable. She appears to have motive but with suspicion falling on her, is she really a killer? If however she is innocent, why is she running.
Life has moved on for DCI Tom Douglas since the last book, he is now a new father. After a sleep deprived night, he is called out by his colleague DI Becky Robinson in the early hours to a murder scene. A woman, identified as Genevieve Strachan has been found dead next to her house in an alley.
This is another excellent addition to the series and possibly one of my favourites so far. The various strands are both engrossing and suspenseful right to the very end. Even though the police murder investigation at times seemed almost secondary to Martha’s story, in heading up the investigation, Tom still projects that aura of empathy and authority that makes him seem such a safe pair of hands, someone prepared to go against his superiors’ orders when needed – and his immediate team of Becky Robinson and DS Rob Cumba work so well together. I can’t wait for the next one. Please! 😀
I ask myself what are the strong traits that will shine through and make this element of my ‘dish’ memorable. What will she add to the mix? What is the flavour of her personality? I always consider both positive and negative – because no character is perfect.
Much of the story focuses on Martha Porter who worked for Genevieve’s husband Niall at his tech firm. When Martha disappears, for reasons unknown, the priority is to find her. However she is an expert at covering her tracks and doesn’t want to be found, by anybody.
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Rachel now lives in Alderney – a beautiful island off the coast of France – and spends a few months of each year in the Le Marche regions of Italy, where she devotes her time to her love of writing fiction. For more information, see Rachel’s website at www.rachel-abbott.com, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
In 2018 Rachel released the first book in a new series – And So It Begins. This was followed by The Murder Game in 2020 (The Invitation in the US). Rachel’s novels have now been translated into over 20 languages.
Rachel Abbott’s debut thriller, Only the Innocent, was an international bestseller, reaching the number one position in the Amazon charts both in the UK and US. This was followed by the number one bestselling novels The Back Road, Sleep Tight and Stranger Child, Nowhere Child (a short novel based on the characters from Stranger Child), Kill Me Again, The Sixth Window, Come a Little Closer, The Shape of Lies and Right Behind You. Close Your Eyes – the 10th in the Tom Douglas series – was released in February 2021.
This is one of my favourite crime series and when Rachel asked if I would like to review Close Your Eyes, there was absolutely no hesitation. This is now the 10th book and if you haven’t read the previous ones, you’ve missed out on a brilliant series but this can easily be read on its own.
I need to understand her goals – what she aims to achieve and what elements of her personality might stand in her way. What are her values? Her behaviour needs to be consistent – and if her role is to create a sweet note in the dish, it has to always taste the same.
Just like any ingredient, I consider each of a character’s attributes. To help me with this I use an online mind-mapping tool called Coggle. I map out the key characteristics of each person, based on the model below. This is the character map for Martha – the protagonist in Close Your Eyes – but I have hidden any information which might give too much away!
As a lover of food and cooking, I sometimes think of a good thriller as a delicious meal, consisting of different ingredients that combine in perfect harmony. The plot may be the main ingredient – the ‘meat’ of the dish (or the star veg!). But to that we must add the texture and flavour, which comes from the strength and spiciness of the characters. We don’t want any watery stew. We want a rich, multi-layered, nourishing curry!
It takes time to build characters, and I spend many an hour staring at the screen as I try to consider each person’s identity, their emotional range and negative traits. But slowly an image is formed of how they will add to the story and how I might be able to make my readers care about them and still remember them long after they have gone. Much, I hope, as they might remember a wonderful plate of food!
Congratulations to Rachel Abbott on publication day for Close Your Eyes. I’d like to thank Rachel for providing the guest post and for the copy of the book, which is reviewed below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I thought I was safe here, but I’m not. I’ve stayed too long. Now Genevieve is dead, and the police are on their way. It’s time for me to go.
But just like a good curry (my favourite food!), I can still remember their individual flavours and what they added to the whole reading experience.