Everyone thought he was a child-murderer.
But to Morgan he was her best friend.
Morgan Vine’s childhood sweetheart, Danny, has been imprisoned for the murder and attempted rape of his 14-year-old step-daughter. But Morgan still resolutely believes in his innocence, a belief that has become an obsession of the last four years. At last Danny is released when a key witness retracts his statement. After years of campaigning, Morgan finally has Danny back in her life and for a few sweet weeks it seems as if they can finally return to their old friendship.
And then Morgan’s teenage daughter goes missing.
As the investigation proceeds Morgan cannot escape the sick feeling in her stomach and the nagging voice in her head: did he do it? And then there are the signs, the sea shells arranged outside her house and the sand on her car bonnet spelling out the words: don’t trust him. Morgan’s daughter is in danger; perhaps it’s time to break faith with her childhood crush and start accepting that her best friend might be a sick-minded murderer.
Without Trace is a fast-paced, unpredictable psychological thriller which will have readers glued to the page with anticipation. The novel is the first in a new series featuring Morgan Vine, a single mum and fiercely determined investigative journalist who specialises in miscarriages of justice.
For many years, I’ve written prime time TV drama for the BBC, ITV and US TV. My credits include psychological thrillers and crime dramas such as The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, starring Nathaniel Parker, and The Mrs Bradley Mysteries, starring Diana Rigg and Neil Dudgeon, who took over from John Nettles as the lead actor in Midsomer Murders. So when I decided to write a book, the crime genre was a logical step.
Without Trace is the first in a series of psychological thrillers featuring Morgan Vine, an investigative journalist who specialises in miscarriages of justice and must discover if the love of her life is a wronged innocent or a ruthless killer.
Each book in the series revolves around a different case. As with the process of creating television shows, crime novels must have 1) a central character we can root for as we follow the twists and turns of the investigation, 2) a USP, and 3) a powerful, ingenious adversary or villain, capable of testing our hero or heroine to the limit.
I hope readers will take to Morgan Vine (she’s resourceful and tenacious with a pronounced vulnerable side) but I don’t believe it’s always necessary to like characters in order to find them fascinating, or that we only root for people who always do the right thing. Is there anyone duller than a ‘goody-two-shoes’? Is Amy Dunne in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl likeable? How about Rachel Watson in Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on The Train? Both books are riveting not despite the fact
that they feature complex women with mixed, sometimes messed-up motives for the way they behave, but precisely because of that very fact.
Another important component of the crime genre is a strong sense of place. Think of Rebus’s Edinburgh, brought to life so cleverly by Ian Rankin, the Shetland of Ann Cleeves’ series featuring Jimmy Perez, or the Arctic as so vividly portrayed in MJ McGrath’s mesmerising series of Edie Kiglatuk mysteries.
When we meet my heroine, Morgan Vine, she’s a down-on-her-luck single mum and investigative journalist living in a converted railway carriage on the beach at Dungeness. I spend a lot of time in a Kentish seaside bolthole in nearby Deal and am fascinated by Dungeness: the eerie, ‘other-worldly’ beauty; the variety of homes dotted around the landscape, ranging from ramshackle shacks to the kind of architect-designed buildings you might see on Grand Designs; and, of course, the vast nuclear power station that dominates the landscape for miles around.
It’s the perfect setting for a crime series and an area I love to visit in all seasons, all weathers. You can get a feel for this wonderful place and find out more about Morgan Vine by taking a look at the Without Trace trailer on my website.
Simon Booker is a screenwriter of prime time TV drama for the BBC, ITV and US TV. His credits include BBC1’s Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Holby City andThe Mrs Bradley Mysteries starring Diana Rigg; ITV1 thrillers The Stepfather and The Blind Date; and Perfect Strangers, the CBS romantic comedy starring Rob Lowe and Anna Friel. He has written many plays for BBC Radio 4. He has worked extensively as a producer in television and radio and as a journalist. Simon lives in London and Deal. He is a volunteer facilitator in Restorative Justice, working with offenders at HMP Brixton. Without Trace is his debut novel. The second Morgan Vine novel is due to be published in 2017. He lives in Kent and London with his partner fellow crime writer M.J McGrath. @simonbooker