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Author Kate Rhodes places her focus on killer instincts


By Alex Spencer


Why is crime fiction so popular?

My theory is that it’s like going to the fair or the circus. People like to watch danger unfolding in front of their eyes. You could be sitting on the sofa drinking your hot chocolate, but at the same time reading a genuinely terrifying thriller. It reassures you that you are safe.

Also, most thrillers give you a moral resolution at the end, which is very satisfying. The good guy normally wins out and evil is vanquished. And we all want a bit of that in our lives, especially when the world is so complicated and sometimes dark. We can’t fix that, but we can get that in a book.

Who are the Killer Women?

Killer Women is a writing group for professional authors who meet in London. We have some fairly starry members, including Paula Hawkins who wrote Girl On The Train. There are about 20 of us but there will be four at the event at Heffers bookshop: Alison Joseph, Mel McGrath, Laura Wilson and me.

Rocky coastline at Hell Bay, Bryher, Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, England. (6924635)
Rocky coastline at Hell Bay, Bryher, Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, England. (6924635)

How did you start out as a writer?

I was an English teacher and when the kids were doing writing exercises in lessons, I would be doing them too, so I knew I was a frustrated writer. For many years as a full-time teacher, it was just more achievable to write a short poem rather than try to sit down and write a whole novel. I wrote a couple of books of poetry and won a couple of prizes, which made me feel I must have some writing ability. So I eventually got the confidence up to write a novel.

Your latest crime series is set in the Scilly Isles. Why did you choose that location?

I used to get taken down there as a kid and went there in my teens for a really formative holiday, which I loved. It is gorgeous territory for writers.

The first book of the series is called Hell Bay, which is a real place on Bryher Island. It is just two miles long and has a permanent population of less than 100 people, so it is the ideal place to set a thriller.

I chose it because it is so beautiful, rugged and unspoilt. The bay got its name because there is nothing between the Scilly Isles and America – just the Atlantic Ocean. The islands get cut off from the mainland in winter because of terrible storms.

What’s special about setting a book on an island?

You are really cut off from the rest of the world. An island has its own moral universe. In Hell Bay, they are cut off by a terrible winter storm and the only law that exists is the law that 80 people can cobble together between them.

A lot of people can’t hack it. People go down to the islands imagining they will be able to cope with living on the islands when the tourists have gone and the planes stop flying and the boats stop sailing, but actually it is a test of your endurance.

You have to really, really get on with your neighbours. It can make for some fraught relationships, which is good in any book.

hell bay (6924637)
hell bay (6924637)

Your hero is DI Ben Kitto, who has returned to the island from London. Tell us more about him.

I wanted to make him someone who wasn’t a picture-perfect hero. He is a giant really – he doesn’t feel completely comfortable in his skin. I also wanted someone who was in full-scale retreat from the rest of the world. So the island would be his sanctuary.

Although he grew up on the island, he escaped to London thinking it would be more exciting, but actually it was incredibly tough. He had a traumatic experience there, so he has come back to the island to heal.

Then a 16-year-old’s body is found on the beach at Hell Bay, where Ben was born, so he doesn’t feel like he can walk away from this one.

The second in the series is out next month, will you write more?

Yes, the second book is called Ruin Beach and is out in paperback in a couple of weeks. The third book will be published later this year.

Hell Bay has been optioned for TV by the same people who made The Fall and The Line of Duty, so I’m really thrilled. They are getting a script together and hopefully I will know within six months whether it will be commissioned.

Will you set a novel in Cambridge?

I don’t think so – I would be treading on a lot of very brilliant authors’ toes, so I will leave the city to them.

Ruin Beach is out on February 21. Published in paperback by Simon & Schuster, it’s priced £7.99.

Killer Women takes place on Tuesday, February 5,

at 6.30pm. Tickets are £6 in advance from eventbrite.co.uk, by calling (01223) 463200 or in person at Heffers bookshop.