It’s nearly time for First Monday Crime again but we have to wait an extra week. Due to the Bank Holiday, the panel will be convening on Monday 9th April. And what a panel to celebrate two years of First Monday! Rachel Abbott, John Connolly, Stuart Turton and Leigh Russell will be the honoured guests. Barry Forshaw will be in charge of proceedings and making sure that everyone plays Pass the Cookie fairly. Before then, Leigh has very kindly agreed to answer some questions about her books, in particular her new novel, Class Murder.
I’m currently reading Class Murder. It’s the first Geraldine Steel book that I’ve read but it’s the tenth one in the series. Can you give me a bit more background to Geraldine?
Geraldine Steel starts her career in Cut Short as a Detective Inspector working in Kent. Dedicated to her work, she relocates to London. When Geraldine learns a disturbing truth, she risks her career to protect a member of her family and, as a consequence of her actions, is forced to leave the Met. She is demoted to Sergeant and relocates to York where she rejoins her colleague, Ian Peterson. Formerly her Sergeant, he is now a Detective Inspector. While Geraldine’s story unfolds gradually in the background of her novels, each works as a standalone. I’m conscious when writing that I am addressing two readers: the fans who are following Geraldine’s history through the series, and readers who pick up one of the books at random part way through the series. Both readers want to enjoy my books equally.
What I have realised, is that you’ve moved locations for your series, from London to York. Why did you decide to do that and has that affected how you write the series?
Geraldine’s change in location hasn’t really affected the way I write but it has involved more research trips to York, especially to Betty’s Tea Shop… It also means that there are three easy entry points to the series, which falls into three sections: Kent, London and York.
You have two other series that you write as well – DI Ian Peterson and Lucy Hall. Do you have a favourite character?
Of the three, Geraldine Steel is my most long running, with ten books published so far, while Ian and Lucy feature in trilogies. But I really don’t have a favourite character. My protagonists are all different and each of them interests me for different reasons.
You have also written a standalone novel. How did that compare with writing a series?
Writing a standalone novel was both challenging and liberating. The challenge was to start from scratch, creating every character and setting for the first time. Unlike writing a series, where the main characters and locations have already been established, everything in my standalone was completely new to me. Although this was difficult, compared to my ongoing writing, it also meant that I was free to do what I wanted. But returning to my series is like going back to old friends, and I can’t imagine abandoning Geraldine Steel for a while – which is just as well as I’m committed to writing at least six more books in the series!
You’re very involved with the CWA and especially the Debut Dagger award. What do you love most about the Debut Dagger?
The Crime Writers Association not only celebrates the best in crime writing, it also supports emerging writers with the prestigious Debut Dagger and it’s a privilege to chair this award. I love that the established community of successful crime writers are so supportive of new and aspiring writers. It is symptomatic of the community as a whole. Crime writers are famously supportive of one another. I’ve been fortunate to receive generous endorsements from many fellow authors including Lee Child, Peter James and Jeffery Deaver, and am pleased to be able to offer support to new authors. There’s a gratifying symmetry to the virtuous circle among crime writers.
First Monday Crime will soon be here. On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you assuming 10 is more exciting than 1?
I would say at least 12. No, make that 15. Since First Monday Crime began I’ve wanted to participate. I was invited once before but was unable to make the date and am over the moon to have been offered a second chance. That said, I probably won’t be saying much as I’ll be too busy listening to John Connolly, Rachel Abbott, and Stuart Turton – not forgetting our esteemed moderator Barry Forshaw. That is awesome company!
Awesome company indeed! Thank you Leigh for answering my questions. If you want to be part of the party on the 9th April then click here to reserve your seat!
I’ve also had the chance to read Class Murder but I’ve taken a different approach with my review.
Geraldine Steel is back. Reunited with her former sergeant Ian Peterson, she discovers that her tendency to bend the rules has consequences. The tables have turned, and now he’s the boss.
When two people are murdered, their only connection lies buried in the past. As police search for the elusive killer, another body is discovered. Pursuing her first investigation in York, Geraldine struggles to solve the confusing case. How can she expose the killer, and rescue her shattered reputation, when all the witnesses are being murdered?
Although this is book ten in the Geraldine Steel series, it’s the first one I’ve read. Now, I could give you a straightforward review. Or I could do something a little different. As I’m trying to write a police procedural series, it’s useful to analyse a successful writer and find out what makes his/her books work. Since Leigh has sold over a million books, I think we can say she’s pretty successful.
So, one of the first things that struck me about Class Murder is the setting and that’s because the location has changed from the previous books. Geraldine Steel is no longer in London but in York (I’m writing this before getting Leigh’s answers back so I don’t know why she’s chosen to change cities). Changing location does a number of things. Geraldine is quite disorientated. She’s in a new place and everything is different. Her creature comforts of her own home are gone and seeing family becomes increasingly difficult. It takes her a while to work out the best way round the city. The actual scenery out in the country also provides a bleaker setting than a city. The book is set in winter and the Yorkshire weather is much harsher than she’s used to.
It’s not just a different climate that Geraldine needs to adapt to. There’s also a new police station and team and a DCI who’s frostier than the weather. To complicate things further, Geraldine has been demoted from DI to DS for this book. There are hints as to why this has happened but Leigh Russell is clever enough to ensure we don’t get the full picture. Why Geraldine has been demoted has certainly intrigued me and makes me want to go and read the relevant book to find out why. So DS Steel is having to constantly rein herself in and go against her natural instinct of leadership.
It sounds as though DS Geraldine Steel is completely out at sea but Leigh Russell has given her a lifeline in the form of DI Ian Peterson. He was formerly Geraldine’s DS but he’s now her boss. That of course has its own implications but their friendship is the one thing that keeps Geraldine going during her time of adjustment.
So for me, Class Murder hasn’t just been an enjoyable read about how Geraldine Steel hunts down a serial killer with an unusual approach for choosing his victims. It’s also been a masterclass in how to disrupt your protagonist’s life and seeing whether he/she sinks or swims. Thankfully, DS Geraldine Steel is a strong swimmer.
Leigh Russell is the author of the internationally bestselling Geraldine Steel series: Cut Short, Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead, Fatal Act, Killer Plan, Murder Ring, Deadly Alibi and Class Murder. The series has sold over a million copies worldwide. Cut Short was nominated for the Crime Writers Association (CWA) John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award, and Leigh has been longlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. Her books have been #1 on Amazon Kindle and iTunes with Stop Dead and Murder Ring selected as finalists for The People’s Book Prize.
Leigh is chair of the CWA’s Debut Dagger Award judging panel and is a Royal Literary Fellow. Leigh studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English and American Literature. She is married with two daughters and a granddaughter, and lives in London.