Today I am closing the blog tour for Claire MacLeary’s novel, Cross Purpose and I have a fantastic guest post from the author herself …
But first, here’s the blurb …
Contraband (23 Feb. 2017)
Two Women, One Quest, Grave Consequences When Maggie Laird’s disgraced ex-cop husband suddenly dies, her humdrum suburban life is turned upside down. With the bills mounting, she takes on his struggling detective agency, enlisting the help of neighbour ‘Big Wilma’. And so an unlikely partnership is born. But the discovery of a crudely mutilated body soon raises the stakes… and Maggie and Wilma are drawn into an unknown world of Aberdeen’s sink estates, clandestine childminding and dodgy dealers.
Cross Purpose is surprising, gritty, sometimes darkly humorous – a tale combining police corruption, gangs and murder with a paean to friendship, loyalty and how ‘women of a certain age’ can beat the odds.
Now it’s over to Claire …
CROSS PURPOSE – A DAY IN THE LIFE
Tell me about your main character.
Set in Aberdeen, my debut novel, Cross Purpose, is a crime duo. Its two main protagonists, Maggie Laird and Wilma Harcus, share equal prominence. Both non-professional ‘women of a certain age’, they are an unlikely pairing. Maggie is petite, conservative and lacking in confidence after years as a stay-at-home mum. Wilma juggles part-time jobs in a bar and hospital and is big, brash and a bit dodgy.
Thrown together when Maggie’s ex-policeman husband, George, is found dead in his struggling detective agency, Wilma persuades Maggie to take on the business, both as a conduit to paying the bills and to restoring George’s good name. Together, the two women set out to learn their craft as private investigators. When a crudely mutilated body is discovered in the kirk-yard of St Machar cathedral, they are drawn into an unknown world of Aberdeen’s sink estates, clandestine childminding and drug dealing.
Just as the protagonists are opposites, so too is Aberdeen a city of two halves: Mannofield, where Maggie and Wilma live in adjoining bungalows, a West End suburb of the Granite City; Seaton, where much of the action takes place, a deprived area of pre-war council property and high-rise flats exposed to the North Sea.
Here is their typical weekday:
With daughter, Kirsty, at university in Dundee, Maggie struggles to rouse teenage son, Colin. She watches as he wolfs down his breakfast, and sees him out before driving across the city to her job at Seaton Primary where, prior to her husband’s sudden death, she’d taken a part-time job as a Classroom Assistant.
Next door, divorced Wilma’s new husband, Ian, has already left for work as a motor mechanic, leaving Wilma in bed, snoring. She’d been up till 2am running credit checks for the agency on the computer, helped along by a bottle of red wine.
Maggie is supervising a dyslexic pupil and worrying about Kirsty who, after her father’s death, had resorted to self-harm. Meanwhile, Wilma has squeezed herself into a too tight pair of jeans, skipped breakfast and lathered on the slap before racing off in her red Fiesta to her shift as a Ward Assistant at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Maggie has a mug of tea with some of the teachers in the staffroom. She’s secretly resentful of the older women’s attitude to Learning Support but keeps her head down.
Wilma has a thick head and it is ages until her break. She sneaks a coffee and a yum-yum off an unattended trolley, demolishes them in a cupboard and resolves to start her diet next day.
Maggie drives along the Esplanade to a meeting with a prospective client. She worries about that month’s mortgage payment. Business hasn’t picked up as fast as she’d hoped.
Wilma is back on the wards. As she disposes of another set of soiled pyjamas, she wishes men weren’t such dirty bastards. Decides they get worse as they get older. Speculates as to when the agency will go into profit and she can pack in the job.
Maggie is in Golden Square taking a witness statement on behalf of a client. She finds these routine jobs a chore, but knows they provide the agency’s bread and butter. During a break, she worries about Wilma, wishes she’d wear more clothes and less make-up and stop treating their business partnership in such a cavalier way.
In a council estate up in Mastrick, Wilma dips into the goodie-bag of gadgets she’s ordered off the internet. She picks the lock of an empty flat looking for stolen goods. She worries about Maggie, wishes she’d lighten up.
Back home in Mannofield, Maggie has downloaded the agency messages from the answering machine and is absorbed in typing a report for a client. Colin comes in from school, raids the fridge, scoffs the steak pie she’d bought for tea.
Wilma grabs half an hour at a salon to top up her fake tan. She just makes it home in time to snog Ian, in lieu of having shopped for his dinner. When she finally dishes up two fried eggs and a can of baked beans, he eats it without a murmur.
Colin is upstairs in his bedroom supposedly doing his homework. Maggie suspects he’s playing computer games and abandons her agency billing to make regular checks. HIs private school fees form a large proportion of her outgoings. She worries he’ll fail his exams.
Next door, Ian is watching sport on TV. Wilma is on Google Earth at the computer doing a recce for a case next day. She’s sworn off booze during the week and swigs from a can of Diet Coke.
Maggie makes a final check on Colin. She hasn’t heard from Kirsty for several days but tells herself not to worry. She heads for bed, first carefully laying out her clothes for the following day.
With an early start, Ian is already in bed. Wilma is still at the computer, working her way through a list of outstanding queries and a bag of Maltesers. She tells herself there are no calories in a can of Diet Coke and bugger all in Maltesers, reckons she’ll have lost a few pounds by the weekend.
Maggie is wide awake worrying about Kirsty. She contemplates the empty space in the bed where George should have been, wonders what the future holds.
Colin is out for the count.
Wilma wriggles out of her jeans and drops them on the floor. She slides into bed. Ian jolts, turns. They spoon together.
Cross Purpose has recently been longlisted for The McIlvanney Prize.
About the author …
Claire MacLeary lived for many years in Aberdeen, but describes herself as “a feisty Glaswegian with a full life to draw on”. Following a career in business, she gained an MLitt with Distinction from the University of Dundee and her short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies. Claire is currently working on Burnout, the sequel to Cross Purpose.