I’m thrilled to be a part of this blog tour for Jane Isaac’s new book – Beneath The Ashes. This is the second book in the DI Will Jackman series with the third one, The Lies Within, due out next year.
The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid. When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.
Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house had been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.
Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?
But before I review the book, I had the chance to ask Jane a few questions about her writing.
Can you tell me a little bit about DI Will Jackman?
Jackman is the everyday guy with the wife, family and dog, but doing the extraordinary job of leading the Warwickshire homicide team. A former marine, he’s completely unaware of his striking appearance and is single minded in his pursuit, but also a thinker and a feeler and there are definite elements of grey in his peripheral vision.
How did you come up with the concept of his wife in a locked-in syndrome?
Life has a habit of putting obstacles in our way, presenting challenges, some of them heart wrenching. Most of us don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of other peoples’ lives and the beauty of fiction is that we can explore these experiences through our character’s mind.
I read about a victim of locked-in syndrome in a newspaper article, many years ago. There are different levels, but victims of ‘total locked-in’ are fully aware of what is going on around them yet unable to move or communicate in any way. It’s such a cruel affliction, not only for the victims, but also for the family watching their loved ones suffer.
Jackman’s wife is left in this state as a result of a car accident a year before the series begins. I thought it would be interesting to see how having a wife with this condition would affect his own life, both at home and as a working detective.
With your first book, you created a completely fictional setting whereas the Jackman series is set in Warwickshire. Which has been easier to write in terms of setting?
I would like to say the fictional setting, it’s nice to be able to put things where you like, but all my fiction is based on some form of reality. I tend to visit the places I write about to smell, touch, feel, breathe the air in order to re-create them in my mind, and the fictional location for my first two books was loosely based on the county of Northamptonshire where I live. So much so, that local readers have identified landmarks in the book, even though they have been renamed and changed somewhat!
Setting the new series in the beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon has presented its own challenges. I’ve visited Stratford more times than I care to think about (I’d hate to tot up my petrol bill!) in order to sort out minor details and make the backdrop as accurate as possible. My family have become familiar with it too: my daughter loves the shops and my husband claims it houses his favourite Thai restaurant.
You write from multi viewpoints which I find hard to do. How do you keep track of all the different narrators & how do you know when to change viewpoint?
I’m fascinated by the effects of crime on everyday people which is why I follow the police investigation through the lead detective’s point of view, and the rest of the story through a victim or somebody else affected by the case, to see the impact from both sides.
Keeping track of them and weaving them together can be a challenge though. I write a detailed four to five page outline before I start, and update this as the story progresses and new twists and turns present themselves, to ensure I don’t miss anything. This way, changing viewpoints falls into a natural rhythm as the story unfolds.
Is there anything you need when writing? (I claim I need chocolate but I’m trying to swap it to fruit!)
Tea! Lots of tea. Chocolate is my treat if I’ve had a good day at the keyboard, or my consolation if I’ve stared at a blank screen, unable to find the words. And Haribo is a must when I’m editing!
Thank you so much for interviewing me, Joy. I really enjoyed answering your questions.
And thank you for taking the time to answer them and for the book!
The Review – Beneath The Ashes
Having read Jane’s previous book ‘Before It’s Too Late’ (read the review here), I’m familiar with her style and her main character DI Will Jackman, which meant I settled into this book quickly. The pace is fast and the tension taut from the off-set. We start with a mysterious woman running into a graveyard, chased by the police before moving back a week to the start of the investigation. Using multiple viewpoints, the story is unwrapped layer by layer like pass the parcel. As well as dealing with the case, Jackman is also up for promotion and is due to face the board. Believing that he needs some help preparing, his boss, Superintendent Alison Janus, enlists DCI Carmella Hanson to bring Jackman up to speed on the finer details of policing. Isaac balances well the attraction that Jackman is starting to feel for Carmella along with loyalty for his extremely ill wife. I hope this is a thread that is picked up in the next book.
Although this is a police procedural, it’s also very much a whodunnit with a bit of psychological thriller thrown into the mix. And just like a good episode of Morse when everything appears to be wrapped up but there’s still 10 minutes to go, in the last few chapters the plot is turned upside down and those seemingly unimportant details come to the fore. A first class book and I can’t wait for The Lies Within.
You can buy Beneath The Ashes and Jane’s other books here
Jane Isaac lives with her husband and daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. An Unfamiliar Murder, her first novel, marked the start of the DCI Helen Lavery series and was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ The follow up, The Truth Will Out, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by E-Thriller.com.
In June 2015, Jane released Before It’s Too Late, the first in the DI Will Jackman series set in Stratford upon Avon. Beneath the Ashes is the second in this series and May 2017 will see the release of the third, The Lies Within. Connect with Jane at www.janeisaac.co.uk .