Fresh Blood

Name: Linda Regan

Title of Book: Behind You!

'Ö a marvellous crime novel set within the shady machinations of a provincial pantomime production.'

Detective Inspector Paul Banham is called out on Boxing Day to investigate an incident during a pantomime performance at a local theatre. During an underwater scene, which takes place in the dark, one of the principle actors has tripped and smashed her head on a concrete block holding up scenery. Or was it murder? Until the test results come back from the lab, Banham is keeping an open mind and a close watch on the cast - who seem to be at loggerheads with one another.

Then there is a second death - and there is no ambiguity about this one. It is definitely murder. Who is killing these actors? As Paul Banham starts to scrape away at the festering relationships that binds this motley crew of actors together, he finds a cauldron of hate bubbling away which is ready to boil over and threaten someone very close to Detective Inspector Banham.

This is the brilliant first novel from actress-turned-writer, Linda Regan. She delivers a marvellous crime novel set within the shady machinations of a provincial pantomime production. Obviously drawing heavily on her vast acting experience, Linda Regan has given us a delicious rogueís gallery of players, each of whom plays out their roles within this clever murder mystery. We witness shameless one-upmanship and sense the different classes within the acting fraternity. Here these is pure loathing amongst the bickering actors.

Regan introduces some wonderful central characters in the shapes of Paul Banham, Alison Grainger and - my particular favourite - DC Crowther, a potent mix of ambitious cop and Lothario. Regan has come up with a marvellous setting for what promises to be an exciting new series. After reading the book, there are many similarities between Behind You! and the novels of Caroline Graham, especially the first Barnaby, The Killings At Badgerís Drift.

I really hope this series flourishes and would certainly love to see these grotesques transferred to the small screen. Casting the characters would certainly be fun!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) What type of crime novel would you say you have written?
I would call it the first in a police procedural series, featuring Detective Inspector Paul Banham and Detective Sergeant Alison Grainger.
2) What type of crime novel do you prefer? Series or standalone?
I like both, but with a series you can get to know the characters and they become like friends; you look forward to meeting them again in the next book.
3) Have you always had ideas to write a crime novel? What influenced you to start writing in the first place?
I have many, many ideas for crime novels, many more than I can fit into my lifetime. I love writing crime, I like the puzzle element. Itís sort of like a jigsaw - you create different pieces, then you push them and turn them, and form them, and try and put them next to other bits; sometimes they fit sometimes they donít, but the detective in you can fiddle for hours, turning and shaping and prodding at that shape, changing it, lightening it, trying something else next to it, and in the end a story will emerge.
4) Would you describe yourself as a Crime fan and if so, which authors do you most admire?
I most certainly do describe myself as a very big crime fan. Itís an addiction. And I have many authors that I admire for different reasons: Martin Edwards because he is such a good writer. Lesley Horton because she is such a good story teller. Janet Evanovich because her characters are so clear. And I am completely addicted to Val McDermid and I really like the books by Maureen Carter and Adrian Magson, both of who are published by CrŤme de la Crime.
5) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
That is a really hard question, there are so many. But I am going to pick Martina Coleís first book, The Goodnight Lady. I actually couldnít put it down, and quite seriously I fell into a swimming pool because I was reading it walking along, on holiday, in my favourite evening dress, going toward the dining area. And I emerged from the water, more worried that I had ruined the book and wouldnít be able to read the end of it, than the fact that my chiffon dress had shrunk and now looked like a crumpled blouse, and my sunburnt bottom was on show. Fortunately I hadnít ruined the book!
6) Behind You! is a crime novel revolving around a group of actors in a pantomime. As an actress who has worked on TV and in theatres around the country, how much of your own acting experience have you put into your book?
They say write about what you know, so I did. I researched forensics and police procedure until I felt confident with that, and I set the book backstage in a pantomime company. And yes, I know how it feels to be shut in a theatre, for two or three shows a day, thatís up to twelve to fifteen hours solid, six days a week, in the season of goodwill, with people that you sometimes donít get on with. Of course some actors donít get on and friction breaks out backstage, and then they go on stage and its all smiles and jokes for the audience. I think thatís what started the detective in me off on this one.
7) You have assembled quite a colourful cast of characters, many of whom are not very likeable. Have you based any of your characters on colleagues in the theatre and has any actor asked you outright if a certain character is based on them? If not, do you dread that moment (especially if they are right!)?
Iím smiling as I say this. I honestly didnít have anyone in mind when I created those characters. A couple of people have asked me which one they are, but they really are all characters I have dreamed up - like an actor creates in a role. No one is real, the characters are all fictional. However - (Iím smiling again!) I do know from experience that friction and personality clashes happen backstage; when you are away from home, and working long hours with a company. I have to admit Iíve never known any actors commit murder, but I have known arguments, resentments, artistic differences, love affairs, broken hearts and many raised voices.
8) Paul Banham is a complicated man with a very upsetting past. During some moments within the book he seems to be quite a melancholic man. Do you intend to make him appear Ďlighterí, perhaps with the possibility of a romance with Alison Grainger?
Yes, there is a possibility of a romance with Alison. Everybody seems to want them to get together, which is lovely. I am a bit of an old romantic myself at heart, but Iím not Alison or Paul Banham - so Iíll just say watch out for the next book. It comes out September next year- same police characters. It is called Passion Killers, and is also published by CrŤme de la Crime.
9) You make no secret of the terrible incident in Paul Banhamís past. Is this something you may one day clear up in one of your books?
You know, when I watch programmes about forensic science and the huge leaps it has taken, especially just recently, I think about nothing else. So, yes, I may well write that one, for Banham.
10) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
Am I allowed to include television in that? If I am it would be Lynda La Planteís Prime Suspect books. I love Lyndaís writing and Helen Mirrenís acting, I think they work so well together.
If I am not allowed to include television in the question! Gosh! Well, I loved The Constant Gardener, thatís a political thriller, but what a good one. Also, one that sticks in my memory is Donít Look Now. That was adapted for film from a supernatural story, by Daphne Du Maurier; it scared me witless. And The Long Good Friday; I donít know for sure that that was a book, but it was a great crime movie.
11) Without giving away the ending, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
In my mind Agatha Christie has never been bettered for her twists at the end. As an actress, I have appeared in loads of her plays. They always fill a theatre with an audience, so theatres always include one in their season. So, I now have to sort out in my head, which were just books and which were books and plays and films! I am pretty sure Murder On the Orient Express was a book first. Anyway, Agatha Christie is my choice. She is queen of twists!