Over the last five or more years I’ve become used to watching box sets of drama. I’ve sat through The Wire (not prepared to say how many times), The Sopranos, Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire and many others. Recently I had my arm twisted and started to watch Game of Thrones. These fictional worlds have enthralled me and I have found myself thinking about them, the characters and the situations, in between times of watching.
A bit like reading a book then.
What I enjoyed was being with characters over a period of time, seeing them in a variety of situations. There was always a story arc and it was engrossing to see the characters change or show different facets of their personality (Tony Soprano, for example).
A few years ago I decided that I wanted to write a box set of my own. A Book Box Set. Of course writers of fiction have been doing this for a long time. I’ve recently been reading The Cazalet Chronicals by Elizabeth Jane Howard and of course crime friction has loads of wonderful series; CJ Sansom’s Shardlake books, Ian Rankin’s Rebus and I’ve just discovered Ann Cleeves’ Shetland books.
I wanted to write a series for teenagers that had a beginning, middle and end. So it was not to be ‘ongoing’. A finite story that started with a mystery and ended with a solution. I wanted to do this over four books. Bloomsbury commissioned this series THE MURDER NOTEBOOKS.
In these books the two main characters, Rose and Joshua try to find out what happened to their parents, police officers, who disappeared five years before.
The first book DEAD TIME came out in 2012 to cautious reviews. Of course it had to work as a stand-alone (as all series books do) and it had to open up the mystery of what happened to Rose and Joshua’s parents. Some readers found this frustrating. The second book KILLING RACHEL also had to work as a stand-alone mystery but unravelled the enigma of the parents’ disappearance further, asking more and more questions about their roles as police officers. This book was shortlisted for the Red House Book Award while at the same time gaining the opprobrium of Kirkus which described it as ‘A limp murder mystery needlessly prolonged’ (you can’t please everyone). The third and fourth books, BUTTERFLY GRAVE and DEAD AND BURIED have now been published and early reviews for the series as a whole are good.
It is slow. It unwinds bit by bit. There are red herrings and associated murders. At its heart the series asks the question IS MURDER EVER RIGHT? A series isn’t for everyone. I had always hoped though that readers would enjoy the teasing mystery and also relish the bitter sweet ending.
Take it or leave it. My Book Box Set THE MURDER NOTEBOOKS is there for you to read.