Today, the lovely Helen Bridgett has dropped in to talk about her new book My Sister’s Killer.
Having failed miserably with every New Year’s resolution that involved diets, one year, Helen Bridgett set herself a completely different goal – to write a novel and give it as a Christmas present. Having written one, she couldn’t stop!
2021 saw the publication of Helen’s debut crime novel featuring Professor Maxie Reddick – One by One which was published by Ruby Fiction and later that same year The Wrong Sort of Girl was published..
Previously, Helen had written feel-good fiction. Her first novel, The Mercury Travel Club featured laugh-out-loud characters who took on a life of their own resulting in the sequel, The Heat is On. Then, in 2020 a new set of characters took up the main stage in Serenity Bay – a fictional village on the glorious Northumberland coast.
Outside of writing, Helen loves being outdoors walking with the dog and enjoying a glass of wine and banter with friends.
So Helen tell us a little about your new book.
Somebody knows what happened to Maxie’s sister – why are they staying silent?
If Professor Maxie Reddick is honest with herself, there’s a very personal reason she pursued a career in Criminology: the unsolved murder of her sister, Susan, nearly thirty years before, and her belief that the local police force let her family down.
Now Maxie has been drafted in to help investigate a murder – nothing particularly unusual about that, except when a fingerprint at the scene provides a shocking and unexpected link to her sister’s suspicious death.
The link means that Maxie can’t be involved in the official police investigation – but Susan’s cold case is heating up, and there’s no way she’s going to let go now, even if she has to stand up to the people who want to make sure the past stays frozen.
It’s great to see Maxie Reddick back. I was so excited to read this one. I have so many questions, but don’t want to give anything away. The ACU seems to be going well and wow, what a case! It’s difficult not to give any spoilers, but you had me hooked from the off.
It’s always good to hear that! I hope I kept you guessing until the end too!
You certainly did! But can you tell me a little about how the idea for Maxie’s new case come about?
Throughout the first two novels in the series, I hinted that Maxie had been drawn into her profession by something that had happened to her sister back when they were teenagers. She’d always felt that the police investigation wasn’t good enough and so became an expert in criminology so that one day she could apply her own skills. In this book, that day has come. A clue that links to her sister’s murder is found and Maxie simply has to follow it up. Of course, with Maxie it’s never straight forward and her personal involvement threatens to destroy all she has built in her life. It’s an emotional roller coaster!
My books can be described as being one of a series, and this Maxie’s third case, how do you find writing a series?
From the moment I started writing about Maxie, I knew her well and so it’s been quite easy to develop her story – she’s like a friend and I know her life inside out. I know her wardrobe, what she loves to eat, that she can’t really cook, that she’s ballsy and funny but you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her. I also know what she cares about.
The first two cases in the series were issues that I knew she would be very concerned about – where the victims were the underdogs and the system would not be helpful or sympathetic. Maxie believes in justice, especially for those whom society often ignores.
Had you always planned writing this story?
Yes – this third book always had to happen – we had to find out what had happened to Maxie’s sister and it was going to take the dogged determination that the Professor gives to every case. I’ve enjoyed really delving into how it must feel to be solving such a personal crime and how that would impact the rest of the family. I have lived this investigation – with my characters – every step of the way!
Maxie’s recently separated, and I love the connection with Andrew
They are such good friends and trust each other implicitly but Maxie does step over the mark in this book! I enjoy writing their banter and when you read the first in the series, you can see how their relationship has developed. Andrew was quite shy and wary when they first started working together and now they are very easy in each other’s company. I did think of creating a tiny romantic spark but this wasn’t the moment for that.
Tell me about your research methods.
I do a lot of online research about crime statistics and criminal psychology as that’s what Maxie’s job is about and I have to be able to understand that. For this book, the sister’s death happened in the 1990’s and although that doesn’t seem too long ago to me – it’s over 30 years! Policing has changed and happily I have a friend who was in the force then so could answer many of my questions. The big differences were in record keeping, CCTV coverage and of course the use of DNA sampling. It was available but still quite expensive so wouldn’t have been applied as extensively as it would be nowadays. Those three differences were very helpful to the narrative.
How did you come to write thrillers?
I was reading a newspaper article which said that 80% (I think that was the number) of crimes are never solved and that figure rises to over 90% in relation to sexual assault. I could imagine Maxie reading this and being furious that things hadn’t improved since her sister’s death and so determining she would do better. That’s really where it all started. I guess I’ve always had Maxie in the back of my mind.
What was the last book you read?
I read all genres and like to have a few on the go at once so that I can match the mood of the day with a story.
I’ve just finished A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe which is about an embalmer who attends the Aberfan disaster. I picked it up because I couldn’t imagine how the story would develop but my word, it is beautiful.
Who’s your favourite author and why?
This is a tough one as I don’t really have favourites. I’ll always pick up a new Lionel Shriver if I see one and do love Barbara Kingsolver. For easy reading, I’ll opt for a Peter James as I already know the characters so it’s just like popping by to see them again.
If there’s one criminal (alive or dead) that you would like to talk to or interview who would it be and why?
I’m not sure that I would want to interview a criminal – I wouldn’t want them to be in my mind afterwards. I guess it would have to be a fictional criminal – like Charlie Croker from the Italian Job! I do love a heist and all the planning that goes into it.
I saw on one of your social media posts, the mention a crime busting Labrador, you’re going to have to tell me about this one.
Oh I had such fun writing that book! It’s from Christmas at Serenity Bay and the village is being used as the set of a TV series – The Montgomery Mysteries.
The hero is a crime writer who always seems to be surrounded by strange deaths wherever he is – he has a Labrador called Agatha who frequently finds the crucial clue and catches the killer! It’s based on all the cosy crimes we see and I loved incorporating all the well-loved tropes.
The dog is a Labrador because I have a Chocolate Lab called Angus – although he tends to sleep all day so any criminals would be completely missed in my household!
And the last question I know everyone always wants to know – what’s coming next from the pen of Helen Bridgett.
Now there’s a question! I do have a couple of ideas swimming around my brain but I’m not sure which I’ll develop first. I tend to put pen to paper only when I really know my characters and how they would behave in any situation. I’m getting there so watch this space!
Thank you so much for dropping by today Helen. I’ve really enjoyed chatting to you.
Website: My Sister’s Killer (rubyfiction.com)