Author of the Month

Name: Sally Spedding

First Novel: Wringland

Most Recent Book: Prey Silence

'...a galloping pace from the very first page'

The Wardle-Smith’s are a thoroughly British family who, lulled by the idea of a tranquil lifestyle abroad, have moved their lives to a small town in France. From the moment they arrive it is a total disaster. The furniture that was supposed to come with the house has vanished. Have squatters spirited away their belongings - or is it someone closer to home? Dark, sinister forces coincide with their arrival and they discover a motley crew of characters who populate the town they have moved to.

Their neighbour, Bonneau, hates the English and yet has plans to ingratiate himself with them, while other members of the community are hiding secrets behind their amiable facades. Soon, the arrival of a young woman called Natalie embroils the whole family in a nightmare that threatens their very dream of living in France.

This novel gets off to a galloping pace from the very first page. The character of Samson Bonneau is well defined from the very start and you just know that he is up to mischief. Some of his family members have either disappeared or been in ‘unfortunate accidents’ and you really cannot help but wonder if Bonneau had a hand in any of their demises. However, his schemes do not always go according to plan with outside forces predicting what he is about to do next. My favourite character was Bonneau’s mother. She came across as a woman who had been dominated all her life, but was now beginning to feel the first vestiges of freedom. And she is determined to grasp them for all she is worth.

The main character, Tom, is a likeable if slightly weak man who’s wife is having a nervous breakdown as their marriage is rapidly failing. Thankfully, Spedding dispenses his dreadful wife back to Britain halfway through the book. If she had stayed, I suspect the book would have been marred by her presence. Also, with the wife out of the way, a hint of romance between Tom and Natalie develops. Sadly, she is the girl who brings with her all the trouble.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and give full credit to Spedding for actually making me feel as though I was in France. The countryside was described perfectly - including the smell of the bread from the local boulangerie. My only small concern was that towards the end, with all the different characters separated, Spedding felt obliged to describe in detail their separate antics. This made the book a tad over-long perhaps? That minor quibble aside, I found this to be a striking book that crime fans would wish to read – although, maybe not whilst making their journey to a new life in France!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) How would you describe your books?
There is always a crime in them, but my books include mystery, supernatural and thriller elements; there is a certain pace to them.
2) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
The Pledge, by Friedrich Durrenmatt
3) Would you describe yourself as a Crime fan and if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
Yes I am a crime fan and I admire Pierre Magnan, Graham Hurley and P.D.James because of their strong characterisations. Their books are character driven rather than plot driven.
4) Who, in your eyes, is pushing the boundaries of crime fiction today – and why?
Philippe Claudel, author of the book Grey Souls, which is set in a small town in France during the war. It pushes the boundaries of crime fiction as the crime in the story is not the pivotal element in the book. It is part of the story, but is ultimately about people suffering under a much bigger catastrophe. I’d like to think that I, myself, am pushing the boundaries
5) Without giving away the plot, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
I’ll go back to Pierre Magnan and his novel The Murdered House since it has a very surprising ending, and you’re not entirely sure whether or not the hero Seraphin is actually finished with. In fact, he appears (in some form) in the next book…
6) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
The Talented Mr Ripley, from the book by Patricia Highsmith. I very much enjoyed this because it deals with duplicity – a beautiful looking man who harbours a lot of hidden baggage. People and places are often not what they seem, and I like that idea.
7) You have set Prey Silence in France near where you have a house in the Pyrenees. Had you always planned to write a novel abroad?
Our house is in the southern area of the Pyrenees. The novel is set much further north, near Cahors. And yes, I did always plan to write a novel set abroad – in fact my first two books, which are unpublished, are both set in France: The Fold, about a school trip that goes terribly wrong, is set in Montaillou and the second, Blood Stream, is set in the Vosges region, a very grim area.
8) An Animal Rights group shops a farmer who farms calves for veal to the authorities. This situation comes across quite strongly in the book. Is this an issue that is very close to your heart?
Absolutely. I do often go to the docks and talk to people who carry animals, and I belong to Viva! who have been instrumental in stopping some serious cruelty. I try to do what I can, within reason.
9) Your previous novels have a flavour of the supernatural. Is this subject a particular interest of yours?
Yes it is. I’ve had some extraordinary experiences – presences in my house and in other places – such solid experiences that I simply can’t deny.
10) Where do you see Crime fiction going next?
I think it will continue breaking boundaries, moving away from the police procedural with the same settings and character types. I like Phil Rickman’s novels as they do take in other elements, and Philippe Claudel absolutely encapsulates what to me is the most interesting in crime fiction.