Fresh Blood

Name: Becky Masterman

Title of Book: Rage Against The Dying

'...Masterman can write a brilliant story and stimulate the mind of her readers.'

In her hey-day, ex FBI agent, Brigid Quinn, not only worked serial killer cases but became their prize. Small and blond, from a distance she looked vulnerable and slight...the perfect bait to catch a killer. But as Quinn got older, she realised she needed to find a protégé, a younger field agent to take her place. So Quinn trains a twenty-two year old and lets her loose in the field. The plan works. Until the Route 66 killer not only takes the bait, but kills the bait.

Years on, Quinn is trying to move past the fact that she has a young woman's death on her conscience. She's now retired - until she gets a knock on her door. The girl's body has finally been discovered. Quinn is pulled back into the case and the more she learns about the killer the more she comes to believe, despite the overwhelming forensic evidence to hand, that they have arrested the wrong man.

Unlike most thrillers, the protagonist in ‘Rage Against the Dying’, Brigid Quinn is quite a bit older than most. With white hair and a stick that she uses when out collecting rocks, don't be hoodwinked into thinking she is not as sharp as she used to be.

The plot opens with an attempted abduction by a man who seems to have killed before. Just as this part of the story gets even more interesting, the book goes back in time a few days to how it all started. Often when this happens the reader has to wade through pages and pages just to get back to the present, but Masterman keeps you hooked from the very first word. As the book is written in the first person, the plot doesn't switch from one situation to another. Sometimes this can be frustrating as the reader doesn’t always get full explanations from other situations that are going on, but Masterman manages to ensure that the reader gets everything they need from this one perspective.

I had figured out the final ‘reveal’ which was slightly disappointing, but I feel that was more to do with me than with this book or the author. For me, the strength of this book was through the writing and I was so impressed with the plot, writing and characters that my own expectations were possibly too high. However, having said that I would definitely push this debut on any lover of crime fiction and know that they would derive as much pleasure from this book as I did.

What I loved most about this book is the characters themselves and the relationships between them felt very authentic. Quinn often shows her thoughts and feelings which at times are quite witty. The descriptions of the crimes are at times quite gruesome and graphic but this certainly does not detract from the fact that Masterman can write a brilliant story and stimulate the mind of her readers. I can say with confidence that ‘Rage Against The Dying’ will stand as one of my best reads for 2013!

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) Did you choose to write crime fiction or did crime fiction choose you?
I chose to write a crime novel because I thought it would be fun. I never realized how hard it would be. In retrospect I think I would have chosen an easier genre, like apocalyptic alternate universe time travel.
2) Your main protagonist is Brigid Quinn, an ex-FBI agent who isn’t youthful or blond anymore. What attracted you to Brigid to make her the focal point of your debut novel?
At 59 Brigid Quinn says what she's thinking, hasn’t had her passions dulled and can disable a mugger. The older I get the better this woman looks.
3) Did you have to do a lot of research about working for the FBI and do you have reliable contacts?
I write this from a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Science, and wish you were here with me to be a part of the fascinating world of real life crime investigators. That is, if you can take discussing blow flies over dinner.
4) ‘Rage Against The Dying’ is written in the first person view of Brigid herself. What decided you to go with this format?
The first draft was written in third person, and then I saw what a strong character Brigid was, and had to let her have her full voice. She hasn’t let me down yet.
5) Are any of the events or people in the book based on real life?
The story is fiction, but every story has reality at its heart. For example, later in life I married an episcopal priest and we moved from Florida to Arizona. We have two dogs, but they are not pugs. And I have never killed a rapist. I made that up.
6) What do you believe is most important to a book – good characters or good plot? Which came to you first in the early stages of ‘Rage Against The Dying’?
There's that ‘What If’ moment, but then I think about the characters. If I do a thorough enough job imagining real characters and not just making puppets, I can throw the ‘What If’ at them and they create the plot for me. I know I more or less fail at this; it is incredibly difficult to create a person.
7) Do you normally plan your books or do you see where the book takes you? Is the end result of ‘Rage Against The Dying’ vastly different from the original landscape of the book at the beginning of your writing process?
It’s everything: outline; see how first draft goes; trash half of it; figure out why it stank; come up with something better; outline again; second draft; trash a little less; stare at the outline and think about different sequence of events; third. . .oh dear, I think I'm depressing myself. Next question…
8) What is the method to your writing? Are you very strict with yourself when you are embarking on a book and during the writing process?
Many people reading this know the discipline it takes to have a day job, pursue a dear avocation, and still try to be a decent wife, sister, mother, grandmother and friend. I begin my day at 5am and work seven days a week. As a mentor of mine said, ‘the writing life is almost monastic in its strictness’. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
9) What are your plans for your next novel? Will we be hearing more of Brigid?
Oh yes! In the next story I’m working on, Brigid’s challenges are even more personal than in ‘Rage Against the Dying’.
10) What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you?
‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier. Also, ‘And Then There Were None’ by Agatha Christie. I’m sorry, I can’t decide on a third, and if you ask me tomorrow I’ll probably have a different first two!