I’m handing over the blog this afternoon to author, Robert Crouch as he discusses the ideas behind his debut novel, No Accident.
No ordinary murder. No ordinary detective.
That’s the tagline on my website for my first novel, No Accident, published in June 2016.
I wish I’d thought of it then, but at the time, after years of failing to excite a publisher, I was just happy to have my first novel available on the internet. What did I know about marketing and making my novel stand out among the other three million books on Amazon?
I thought writing something original and different would be enough to stand out in the crowded crime fiction genre. I thought readers would love a change from police procedurals, with their flawed, alcoholic detectives, who smoke too much, eat badly and go home to an empty house since their partners walked out.
Maybe I should have known better.
After all, it took me long enough to find a publisher that appreciated my story. He liked the humour, though I’m told it’s not a good selling point. I’m not sure why because laughter is a wonderful tonic. And being different makes it difficult to categorise a novel. No Accident sits in the Mystery and British Detective categories on Amazon, though the cover suggests it’s more of a cosy, despite the gruesome death and fairly gritty storyline.
As a lover of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and Morse, I envisaged a traditional whodunit with a twisting, complex plot, packed with red herrings and suspects. I pictured a detective like Lieutenant Columbo, slowly unpicking the perfect murder to catch the arrogant killer.
Only I wanted something different, something I knew and understood, so I could write with confidence and authenticity. That’s why I chose an environmental health officer (EHO) to solve the murder.
Nobody had tried that before.
It’s different, but few people really know what EHOs do. We’re best known for inspecting restaurant kitchens to ensure they meet hygiene standards. It’s hardly a logical background for someone solving murders.
EHOs are not seen as law enforcers, even though that’s what we do, meeting the same evidence standards as the police. We interview under the same rules of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, and we prosecute offenders in the Magistrates and Crown Courts.
Only we prosecute businesses and people who breach food hygiene rules or workplace health and safety regulations. People die from food poisoning and infectious diseases like E. coli O157. People die in work accidents every year. My own experiences investigating these led to the idea behind No Accident – a murder disguised as a work accident.
In walks Kent Fisher, a determined, lateral thinking EHO, with Columbo’s nose for small details that don’t fit, and enough baggage to fill an airport carousel. Like all amateur detectives, he has no access to forensics, no crime scene investigators, and no team of dedicated officers to pursue leads, analyse information or identify DNA. There’s no backup waiting in the station, and no one to review progress or share information.
The detective has to use his wits, local knowledge, and whoever he can find to help him to solve the mystery and the murder. He needs to be creative, take risks, cheat and lie when necessary to solve the case. It’s a formula used in many conventional detective stories. I thought this would overcome any reservations readers might have about an EHO solving a murder.
Maybe I should have explained this instead of hoping readers would be interested in my novel. But I didn’t appreciate the challenges facing a new author with a first book.
When I publish No Bodies, the second Kent Fisher murder mystery, later this year, I’ll point out it’s a traditional whodunit with a complex case full of twists and surprises. Readers will know the story’s set within the beautiful South Downs in Sussex. And as the title suggests, there are no bodies, making it difficult to prove that three missing, but unconnected women were murdered.
Or were they?
Thank you so much for this Robert, great to have yo here and the book certainly sounds different!
If it’s taken your fancy too, here’s the blurb …
Despite his supervisor’s insistence on closing the case, Kent’s curiosity-fuelled by his contentious history with the dead man’s employer, wealthy playboy Miles Birchill – soon raises questions about the death and the complex deception behind it. But as Kent digs deeper, he sets his personal and professional lives on a collision course that could ultimately destroy the people closest to him. Sydney Collins had secrets, and someone in the village will do whatever it takes to keep them buried.
Set in the Sussex countryside, No Accident is the first book in Robert Crouch’s Kent Fisher Mysteries series.
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Robert-Crouch
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/robertcrouchauthor