Det. Sgt. Charlotte “Charlie” Zailer and Det. Constable Simon Waterhouse investigate another bizarre crime in British author Sophie Hannah's The Dead Lie Down.
How do you balance Charlie and Simon's police work and the inner lives of the other characters?
I wanted to blend two genres that I love: the police procedural, with recurring detective characters, and the first-person-narrated woman-in-peril psychological thriller. I did that with my first crime novel, Little Face, and it enabled me to explore the mystery from the point of view both of the investigating officers and of the woman whose life is being threatened/ruined by whatever's going on. I also liked the contrast between the two narrative rhythms. Charlie and Simon's story doesn't have to be neatly concluded at the end of each book, because I know they'll be in the next book.
How does your poetry background influence your crime fiction?
What my poetry and my crime fiction have in common is the obsession with structure. In a poem, every word has to be in exactly the right position in relation to every other word, or else it undermines the whole. It's the same with a crime novel: if you're going to have a big revelation in chapter 30, you've got to lay the groundwork by planting bits of information. Your novels hinge on situations that are almost too strange to believe. Each book starts with a seemingly impossible mystery, and the challenge is for me to solve it. But in order for it to work, I first have to be as mystified as I want my readers to be. So for a while, with each book, I go around with a mystery in my head and no solution. I could make life easier for myself by having less outlandish mysteries, but then the standard whodunit—i.e., here's a dead body; which of these five people killed him?—feels a bit stale and not mysterious enough for my liking.
How do you construct such intricate plots?
I'm a dedicated outliner. I approach each book as an architect might approach a building project—plans, documents, the more paperwork the better. Only once I'm sure the plan is solid do I start writing. Structure is paramount—it's what gives a novel its internal shape and music and resonance. It's the most important thing of all.
Any plans to adapt your work for television?
Hat Trick Productions have bought the rights and are hoping to make the series for ITV. In an ideal world, David Morrissey would give up all other acting projects and devote the rest of his life to being Simon Waterhouse.—Jordan Foster