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The Dangers of Jumping the Shark (and the Risks of Staying on Dry Land) By Helen Fields

Perfect Silence On the book tour for the latest book in Helen Fields’ D.I. Callanach series called ‘Perfect Silence’, Helen talks about writing and jumping the shark.

Rarely is a TV episode so bad that it coins a phrase denoting the point at which all credibility has been lost, but many years ago a show called ‘Happy Days’ did just that when the lead character “The Fonz” decided to water-ski over a shark. From that moment on the show died a creative death, and the phrase “jumping the shark” was born. It’s rather sad for a show that a whole generation loved, but it serves as a lesson to everyone in the writing industry – books, theatre or screen writing – not to overstep the mark.

That may be more true in crime writing than in any other genre. You can get away with a lot more in sci-fi, and to an extent in dystopian fiction, but broadly speaking the same rules apply. Last week I watched ‘Sicario 2’ at the cinema. It’s high budget, the cinematography is impressive and the acting is good. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the entire film, but *spoiler alert* at one point the lead character is shot in the head. Fortunately for the audience all is not lost because we later find out that the bullet passes through one cheek and out the other, leaving our hero free to continue the story. The bullet holes are clean and his teeth seem relatively unaffected. Now I would pay good money to sit down for a coffee with that particular hero (Benicio Del Toro is a heart-throb of mine) but for me – perhaps not for others – the writer had jumped the shark.

Keeping credibility with you audience is vital. Keeping credibility with your audience whilst creating an engaging, thrilling story line, with the necessary twists and red herrings, now that’s an art form in itself. The story has to be believable. If it’s not, and your reader hits that “Really?” moment, you’ve lost them. Honestly, as a writer, it’s a minefield. Some years ago I stopped reading a crime series when it all got too far fetched. These days, as a writer, I’ve a lot more sympathy. There is a demand to produce the most gripping story line you can. Every reader (including me) wants that one special book you literally “can’t put down.” But the cost in terms of credibility can be high. As can playing it too safe. Real life is rarely as exciting as the fiction we love. The stakes are rarely as high. The ticking clock syndrome (portrayed so brilliantly in the series 24) almost never happens. But keep it too real, make it too believable, worry too much about proper procedure and what the police would actually do in any given scenario, and bangs goes your pulse-racing read.

I wish I had answers. I think credibility has as much to do with how you write as what you write. Your characters have to be fully engaged. your dialogue has to be honest and real. If you’re introducing an incredible element, it has to have a credible reason for existing. But the truth is, this is the hardest element of thriller writing to get right. We all slip sometimes. I’m hoping readers will be understanding and a little forgiving. For me, I end each book by inserting an additional editing phrase, which consists of me asking myself the question, “Did I jump the shark?” As and when I do, I’m sure readers won’t hesitate to let me know!

You can buy Perfect Silence from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Perfect Death By Helen Fields

Perfect Death‘Perfect Death’ is the third book in Detective Callanach series by Helen Fields.

Unknown to DI Luc Callanach and the newly promoted DCI Ava Turner, a serial killer has Edinburgh firmly in his grip. The killer is taking his victims in the coldest, most calculating way possible – engineering slow and painful deaths by poison, with his victims entirely unaware of the drugs flooding their bloodstream until it’s too late. But how do you catch a killer who hides in the shadows? A killer whose pleasure comes from watching pain from afar? Faced with their most difficult case yet, Callanach and Turner soon realise they face a seemingly impossible task…

‘Perfect Death’ is the latest book by Helen Fields and for me, has been the most unsettling from all her books. Right from the book, we are drawn into a dark and creepy, where a young man likes to befriend people, people who have suffered a bereavement, to offer comfort from their pain unaware that he is actually the creator of their pain.

Like the previous Detective Callanach novels, the perspective is seen from the eyes of the French Detective, his colleague Ava Turner as she has to deal with the sudden death of her old boss who was found dead in his car. She’s convinced that there’s more to his death than suicide and begins her own investigation, putting her own life in jeopardy. Both Detectives find themselves racing against time, trying to stop the killer from claiming his next victim and always trying to be one step ahead.

The different perspectives to the story, give the thriller a fast paced edge as the killer befriends his victims and the police try to get one step closer to him. The killer is a strange character and the insight into their mind, does make for uncomfortable reading as times, as well as the exploration into the dark underworld of Scotland’s crime scene.

A strange and haunting story that is very cleverly written, ‘Perfect Death’ is a nail-biting thriller that keeps the reader on their toes.

You can buy Perfect Death from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Perfect Death Book Tour – Extract

Perfect DeathOn the book tour for Helen Fields’ latest chilling book, sit back and enjoy an extract from ‘Perfect Death’, the third book in her DI Callanach series.

Taking lives was more complicated than people imagined. You didn’t just blunder in unprepared. He had to know he was capable of carrying Sean. A daily work out with dumbbells ensured that would be possible, and the exercise had the added effect of keeping his body toned and desirable. He wasn’t vain, but there was no point in false modesty. Good looks and taut muscles made life easier. Then there was fight or flight. Life was unpredictable. Better to imagine potential conflicts and prepare for them. He liked a fight though. Dominance. Exertion. But he knew when to run. The first lessons of his childhood – when to run, when to hide, when to remain silent. Staying in shape reduced the chances of capture.

Watching Sean warm up, he saw a man who prided himself on being jovial. There was a smile for everyone around him, one of those ‘what a wonderful world’ smiles too, nothing fake about it. Sean wanted to like and to be liked. That would make approaching him much easier. Manipulating him would be almost no challenge at all. A shame, really. Sean’s height and weight were the key to knowing how much sedative he would need for incapacitation. He didn’t want to kill him too quickly. That would give no satisfaction at all. Grief was best enjoyed slowly, a drip-drip-drip of emotion, and he wanted to be there to lick every tear from the face of Sean’s best beloved. There was more to do yet. Trust to be built. A fire to kindle. That made him think of Lily. He shut his eyes, willing himself not to be distracted by the memory. He studied Sean instead. There was something vital about him. Utterly intoxicating. His hands itched to hold him.

You can buy Perfect Death from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Perfect Prey Book Tour – Extract

Perfect PreyOn the book tour for Helen Fields’ gruesome new book, “Perfect Prey’, read an extract from the unsettling tale.

Tripp looked like he didn’t know which way to run.

‘In you come, Tripp,’ Callanach instructed. ‘And you should shut your door, Bunny. It’s late.’

Safely inside, Tripp was a shade of beetroot.

‘New neighbour then, sir? She seems very, um, enthusiastic.’ Tripp raised his eyebrows and seemed to be struggling to control a grin.

‘Was there something important, detective constable? Only I was hoping to get some sleep for the first time in several days.’

‘Of course, yes. Couldn’t send the files over the internet. No time to securely encode them. Here you go.’ Tripp opened a laptop, and clicked on a folder in which two items sat. As the first played, Callanach could hear the now familiar song that the band had been playing when Sim Thorburn had hit the floor. The footage was taken from a few rows in front of the victim, on a mobile phone whose owner was obviously taking a selfie of herself singing along. For a split second, in the background, a shadow passed across Sim’s face. As the shadow cleared the screen, Sim could be seen slightly out of focus, looking down towards his stomach, his face registering confusion. Then he lurched to one side, out of shot.
‘Is that all?’ Callanach asked. ‘It doesn’t tell us any more about the attacker.’

‘One more piece of footage,’ Tripp said. ‘Top right-hand corner of the screen.’

Tripp pressed play. More mobile footage, this time obviously designed to show the scale of the audience, mobile held high in the air, turning around in a three-sixty loop. After a few seconds, Tripp pressed pause and pointed.

‘There,’ he said. ‘Only in shot for a second, but it’s clearer than in the previous footage.’

Callanach looked more closely. Sim Thorburn was hidden from view, but he could see Merel and Niek De Vries. To the left of them, walking in profile, was an adult with dark brown hair flopping over their face. The attacker was wearing large, dark sunglasses. Tripp let the video play to show the person’s sudden change of direction away from the camera and into the crowd.

‘Male or female?’ Callanach asked.

‘Can’t be sure,’ Tripp replied, closing the lid of the laptop. ‘But not that tall, slim and therefore able to move about relatively unnoticed. Caucasian. Hair could be natural or dyed.

Might even be a wig. Clothes didn’t stand out to anyone, so no help there.’

‘Perfect camouflage,’ Callanach said, leaning back on the couch and closing his eyes.

‘Could it be someone from one of the homeless shelters, do you think?’ Tripp asked. ‘Sim would have come into contact with plenty of people suffering mental health problems. No one keeping tabs on them, no one to recognise them.’

Callanach shook his head.

‘I wish I believed that, Max,’ he said. ‘Because sooner or later the person you’re describing would get arrested for something else, have a breakdown and confess, get drunk and show someone the knife. This took planning. It needed care and consideration. More than that, it needed nerves of fucking steel. Can you imagine the psyche of a person who can walk through a crowd of thousands, take out a weapon, cut hard and deep and precisely, then not rush away? To walk on slowly through the crowd, certain you’ve done such a good job that you have the time to get out of there, whilst putting the knife out of sight, making sure you don’t emerge from the crowd covered in blood. This person knew how to cut. They may be a psychopath but they’re not mentally ill, not in the way we think of it. This is someone who feels nothing at all. No panic, no fear, no sense of danger. Nothing at all.’

‘How do we catch them then, sir, if they’re that good?’ Tripp asked.

‘You know what, Tripp? I don’t have a fucking clue.’

Fancy finding out what happens next? You can buy Perfect Prey from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Perfect Prey By Helen Fields

Perfect Prey‘Perfect Prey’ is the latest book by Helen Fields.

In the middle of a rock festival, a charity worker is sliced across the stomach. He dies minutes later. In a crowd of thousands, no one saw his attacker. The following week, the body of a primary school teacher is found in a dumpster in an Edinburgh alley, strangled with her own woollen scarf. D.I. Ava Turner and D.I. Luc Callanach have no leads and no motive – until around the city, graffitied on buildings, words appear describing each victim. It’s only when they realise the words are being written before rather than after the murders, that they understand the killer is announcing his next victim…and the more innocent the better.

In the second book by in DI Callanach is back with a lot more gore and drama than the debut book.

Set against the gritty background of Edinburgh, DI Callanach and his colleague DI Turner are trying to find two killers, who are committing heinous and gruesome crimes, both battling for attention and constantly one step ahead of the police.

Seen from the perspective of Callanach, the same moody and charismatic French man who is struggling to settle in but has a strong team of support around him. Unfortunately the one person that he can really rely on is DI Turner, but she’s busy with her own case as well as a new relationship. As well as Callanach’s perspective, there are also narratives from the killers as well, which give the story a clever twist. As the story progressed and more characters and potential suspects are introduced, I found myself on my edge trying to guess the killer.

The story isn’t just about an old fashioned killing, there is also the inclusion of hacking scandals as well as chat forums, where the killer and his audience were able to chat freely. Helen also touches on the subject of the dark web, an area of the internet that is deeply hidden, but once it is discovered, it’s a dark and dangerous place to get out off.

The second book in the series is a dark and chilling story that was impossible to put down. Clever and fast paced, the story progressed with many twists and turns that really holds the readers attention. With the inclusion of a handsome detective, clever and twisted serial killers, as well as some of the most gruesome murders, ‘Perfect Prey’ is a cracker of a page turner crime book that is most definitely not for the faint hearted.

You can buy Perfect Prey from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.