My first novel, Don’t Stand So Close, is categorized as crime. When I started writing the story, I hadn’t set out to write a crime novel, but then a series of crimes came to lie at the heart of the story. Stella Davies is a psychologist working as an expert witness in custody cases. She confronts her worst nightmare when she begins to unravel the case of a troubled teenage girl whose parents accuse each other of abuse.
Here are five other crime novels where the central character is not a detective, and which have inspired me:
1. I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti
This novel is translated from the Italian, and was a bestseller. The hero is Michele Amitrano, a nine-year-old boy living in a tiny village who discovers a terrible secret involving blackmail and murder that changes his view of his family and shatters the innocence of his childhood. I love novels that surprise me, and this one does on so many levels. It is exquisitely written, completely different from anything I’ve ever read before and despite the fact that I usually don’t choose novels with child narrators, this one tops my list of favourites.
2. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
With its gothic undertones and domestic setting, this is my favourite psychological suspense novel. Much of the action takes place inside Manderley, a remote country house. A new bride – whose name we never learn – becomes increasingly isolated and insecure as the memory of her husband’s deceased first wife casts a powerful influence over the present. The forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, also contrives to make the young bride’s life a misery.
3. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
I’m cheating slightly here because one of the main characters in this novel is a detective. The story takes place in a small Mississippi town, where a teenage girl disappeared 20 years before while on a date with one Larry Ott. Because of a lack of evidence, Larry was never convicted, but the town’s residents have shunned him ever since. Twenty years later, the crime is re-investigated when someone tries to kill the reclusive Ott and another young woman goes missing. This is a beautifully written and intricately plotted mystery which centres around an unspoken secret that hangs over the lives of two men - one black, one white.
The police procedural aspect soon fades into the background as the characters take centre stage and the policeman and criminal find they are bound together in ways they did not suspect.
4. Marathon Man by William Goldman
William Goldman is a screenwriter and a novelist. The protagonist in this crime thriller is marathon runner Tom Levy, and his running is both literal and metaphorical as he tries to distance himself from the scandal of his famous father's suicide. A visit from his older brother plunges him into a violent world of assassins, espionage and torture, and he is forced to race for his life. Warning: traumatic scenes involving a dentist. The pace of this novel is extraordinary, you simply have to know what happens next At the same time the tenderness in the relationship between the brothers is compelling.
5. When the Bough Breaks by Jonathan Kellerman
Jonathan Kellerman’s books, involving psychologist Alex Delaware, are a particular inspiration because, like me, Kellerman is a psychologist, who also writes psychological textbooks. There are now more than 30 novels in the series featuring fictional psychologist Alex Delaware. I’ve picked the first ever in the series, When the Bough Breaks, which focuses in part on his training as a psychologist and his introduction to detective Milo Sturgis.