Crime / Writing

Close to Home – the clever twists and turns of a crime thriller for our times

I don’t usually post about books in this blog, but I don’t usually have even a tangential involvement in a best-selling crime novel and I don’t usually get invited to the fizz-fuelled launch in an Oxford museum.

In the case of Cara Hunter‘s debut Close to Home both apply, so I took a short break from basking in the distantly reflected glory of her success to jot down these few words.

Close to Home is a smart, thoughtful, intriguing story – the first in a series of three crime thrillers about Oxford-based Detective Inspector Adam Fawley, which follows his investigation into the disappearance of an eight-year-old girl, Daisy Mason.

Fawley tries to keep an open mind, but he knows that the culprit is almost always someone the victim knows – someone close to home.

It’s gripping stuff, which leads you in one direction, then switches you in another as the latest piece of evidence is uncovered. Just as you think you’re on the right track, a new development makes you double back on yourself and take a new path, only for the same to happen again.

But Close to Home is much more than a challenge to the reader’s powers of deduction (mine failed miserably, I confess). It offers convincing characters, in convincing settings (Cara lives in Oxford and knows it well), with convincing events – the procedural goings-on were written with advice from professionals (a crime scene investigator [my contribution was putting Cara in touch with him – she mentioned she needed a CSI and we had one in the house at the time!*], a police detective, and a barrister).

At the launch in the Pitt Rivers Museum – that’s me with an iron grip on my drink.

It’s also a decidedly contemporary piece of work – parts of the story are told via social media posts, for instance, with Twitter updates by news media and Tweets from the public, making accusations and appealling for help to #FindDaisy.

Such passages, I know, have baffled at least one elderly reader who doesn’t use social media, and will no doubt be seen as quaintly old fashioned in a few years. (In fact, it could already be starting to look that way – Twitter with 140 characters!) But they cement the story in our society in our time, and that makes the disappearance and nail-biting aftermath all the more vivid.

Publishing giant Penguin Books understandably snapped up Close to Home and wanted more – hence the three-book deal – and since its release in December [2017], it has soared up all the charts. Now it’s a spring 2018 choice for TV’s Richard and Judy book club.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Cara for several years, and it was an honour to join her and her guests for the launch [January 2018] at the amazing Pitt Rivers Museum – a treasure trove of mysteries itself, and a place which features in the story. The launch was wonderful, but the book is even better. You can buy your copy here.

Close to Home by Cara Hunter was published by Penguin in December 2017.

* Our house was not a crime scene. CSI Joey was there for tea.

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