Author of the Month

Name: Nadine Matheson

First Novel: The Jigsaw Man

Most Recent Book: The Binding Room

'Matheson has blasted her way on to the crime scene with her first two books...'

The Serial Crimes Unit are called in to investigate when a local pastor is found stabbed to death. As DI Henley assesses the crime scene, she discovers a hidden door that conceals a room set up for torture – and bound to the bed in the middle of the room is the body of a man.

When another body is found, also tied down, Henley realises there's someone out there torturing innocent people and leaving them for dead. But why?

There's nothing that connects the victims. They didn't know each other. Their paths never crossed. But someone has targeted them, and it's up to Henley and the SCU to stop them before they find another binding room…

Matheson’s second novel is a more considered affair than her debut, ‘The Jigsaw Man’. While both books are hugely entertaining, Matheson’s debut was more explosive like a runaway car with no brakes. ‘The Binding Room’ deals with many issues that affect many in society including mental health, race and religion. DI Henley being a woman of colour has to fight on all sides of the divide to assert her right to be a woman, black and a police officer, a position that brings her into conflict with the family of the local murdered pastor who was also black. This is an extremely difficult dynamic that Matheson flags up which is something many of us don’t have to deal with.

Matheson’s writing reminds me of the excellent psychological novels of Minette Walters. As with Walters, Matheson brings to light social issues as well as some peoples way of thinking, especially when dealing with religious mania, something one feels should be relegated to the dark ages and not the 21st Century. Sadly this is not the case. Apologies if my comments feel slightly oblique, but this is one of those times when it is difficult to write a review without giving anything away! ‘The Binding Room’ has a sense of the classic film, ‘Seven’, creepy and malevolent.

Henley is a great detective, torn between her desires and her responsibilities. Her husband is still moaning about her job. I really do dislike that man! Ramouter’s life is expanded and makes him more human, showing the man behind the job who also has big issues in his daily life. I hope Matheson will do the same with the remaining team. Matheson has blasted her way on to the crime scene with her first two books and I can’t wait to read her third which promises to dig up more skeletons within the CSU!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) Your first two books have been quite graphic. Do you love to shock and be shocked yourself?
I don’t necessarily need to shock myself, but I do love to shock others. My intention is to create moments which causes the reader to pause with shock and then turn around and double check their surroundings because I’ve created an intense but authentic moment. There is always a point to the graphic scenes that are in my books and it’s to show the realities of a criminal investigation. To be honest, I didn’t realise how graphic some of the scenes were until I listened to the audiobook. I stopped in my tracks when I heard a certain scene but enjoyed that moment of feeling surprised and creating the visuals of that scene in my head.
2) Henley and Ramouter tread a minefield of racism and religion in ‘The Binding Room’ – two hugely explosive issues. Even though both detectives are people of colour, they are accused of it themselves. Did you feel you had to be careful as to how the investigation proceeded with such divisive issues to tackle?
The issues of racism and religion are the lived experiences of so many people and you never want to be accused of exploiting an issue for entertainment purposes. The most important thing for me was to be authentic and to show the realities of how racism and religious belief impacts someone’s daily lives. Most instances of racism can be very subtle, it’s literally a blink and you’ll miss it moment ,or it can be extremely blatant and physical. I can fully relate to the occasions of when Henley and Ramouter have both been subjected to and accused of racism. The accusations that are made against Henley and Ramouter are born out of feelings of mistrust and a betrayal because some in their respective communities believe that they have crossed over to the ‘other side’ by joining the police force.

My intention with the series was to show the emotional impact of an intensive investigation, not only on the victims and the family and friends left behind but also on the detectives carrying out the investigation. It wouldn’t have been realistic if I hadn’t shown how the issues of racism and religion had an impact on the criminal investigation in the ‘The Binding Room.’ The care I took with these two issues also reflects how Henley and Ramouter both must deal with these same issues carefully and objectively.
3) As a woman of colour yourself, was it a no-brainer to make DI Henley the same so you could highlight some of the issues, as a black woman, you have had to deal with in your own life?
To be honest it wasn’t even a conscious decision to make DI Henley a Black woman. Henley came to me fully formed as a Black woman in her late thirties; that was how I immediately saw her in my head. I instinctively knew that she was a Black British Woman of Caribbean descent who was from South-East London. Obviously, I could immediately relate to all the issues that Henley would have experienced at every stage of her life as a young Black girl, teenager and finally a fully grown adult. I feel that DI Henley comes across as being more ‘real’ and accessible because she’s a Black woman who was created by a Black woman. I don’t have to google what ‘subtle racism’ means or ask someone else how it feels to when someone assumes that your trainee is your boss as I’ve experienced moments like these for myself.
4) In your debut, ‘The Jigsaw Man’, Henley has to re-visit past nightmares and a killer, Peter Olivier, who she captured. Henley now finds she needs his help in catching a copycat killer who is paying homage to Olivier’s work. This book definitely had a flavour of ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ and the Lecter/Starling dynamic. Is this a book that influenced your debut novel?
I first read ‘Silence of the Lambs’ when I was 14 because I was too young to watch the film in the cinema when it was released. It was nearly thirty years later when I wrote ‘The Jigsaw Man’ and I’d been practicing as a Criminal Solicitor for over a decade. In retrospect I think that I was more influenced by the many unique and memorable interactions that I had with defendants that were reminiscent of how Lecter interacted with Starling. Silence of the Lambs influenced me in terms of wanting to create a villain who was enigmatic, charming, vicious, and memorable. I love the Lecter/Starling dynamic and I’ve always been interested in the examples of ‘quiet manipulation’ as opposed to the graphic acts of violence. I didn’t want the Henley and Olivier relationship to simply replicate Lecter and Starling.

I think in retrospect the book may have influenced me by showing me the importance of clearly setting out the parameters of Henley and Olivier’s relationship. Unlike Lecter and Starling, Henley and Olivier have history together and Henley doesn’t really need Olivier’s help. Henley was responsible for putting Oliver in jail and that he’d nearly killed her during the arrest put a different spin on their relationship. Henley’s interactions with Olivier, force her to address the cause of her PTSD and how that not only affects her but also her family and friends.
5) You leave a teaser in the last sentence of ‘The Binding Room’. Will there be more revelations within the SCU in your next book? Can you slightly expand on that last sentence teaser?
There is a teaser which I’ve been quietly setting up since ‘The Jigsaw Man.’ We all know that DCSI Henry Rhimes oversaw the Serial Crime Unit (SCU) before he took his own life. There were murmurings about Rhimes being corrupt and Ramouter was quickly shut down by the SCU members when he questioned what happened to Rhimes. Book 3 forces the SCU to investigate Rhimes when an old killer resurfaces.
6) With your experience as a writer, what advice would you give to anyone attempting their first novel?
Firstly, to accept that there is no magic system to writing a book. The most important thing is to be clear about who your characters are and what their goal in the story and then you write. Secondly, the first draft of your first novel does not have to be perfect, so let your first draft be messy and have fun with it. Thirdly, Don’t worry about what type of books are in the Bestsellers list or are receiving a massive six figure advance. Write the story that you want to tell.
7) If you were stranded on a desert island, which three crime novels would you want with you?
American Tabloid by James Ellroy

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Primal Fear by William Diehl