Fresh Blood

Name: Clare Donoghue

Title of Book: Never Look Back

'This debut novel by Donoghue starts off at a cracking pace.'

Three women have been found brutally murdered in south London, the victims were only feet away from help during each sadistic attack. And the killer is getting braver.

Sarah Grainger is rapidly becoming too afraid to leave her house. Once an outgoing photographer, she knows that someone is watching her. A cryptic note brings everything into terrifying focus, but it’s the chilling phone calls that take the case to another level.

DI Mike Lockyer heads up the regional murder squad. With three bodies on his watch, and a killer growing in confidence, he frantically tries to find the link between these seemingly isolated incidents. What he discovers will not only test him professionally but will throw his personal life into turmoil, too.

This debut novel by Donoghue starts off at a cracking pace. Young women are being sadistically raped and murdered by a serial killer. Another young woman is being terrorised by an unknown stalker and DI Mike Lockyer is struggling with the separation from his wife five years ago.

Lockyer is a great character and inspector, but is also a person who elicits little sympathy or empathy. Self-absorbed and knowing his faults, Lockyer does little to correct to these less than admirable aspects of his character. His right hand man (or woman), Jane who works as his Detective Sergeant, has depth yet somehow remains mysterious. Hopefully in future novels she, as with other characters, will continue to grow.

In ‘Never Look Back’ the author has thrown into the mix plenty of suspects so once the killer is finally revealed, it feels fitting and you can see that the clues were there for the reader to pick up along the way.

What made this book stand out from the crowd was the way Donoghue really manages to capture the feelings of the young woman who is being stalked. She describes in chilling detail how disruptive and terrifying this can be, but also flips the coin and shows the converse and ironic viewpoint of the stalker.

This book is a great mix of fantastic characters with a suspenseful plot which I could not fault. Clare Donoghue has joined my list of ‘must read’ authors and I shall be eagerly awaiting her next book.

Book Break

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) You worked for a law firm in London for many years. Did your experience there gain you a greater insight to crime and was it the reason why you write crime fiction?
I’d love to say yes but it wasn’t that kind of law firm. It was mainly corporate and I worked in the finance department, so although it felt like murder some days, it wasn’t quite that exciting!

I actually started writing crime fiction because I’m a fan of the genre. I stayed up all night to read Mo Hayder’s novel, ‘Pig Island’, and I started writing the next day. I wanted to be able to write something that could keep a reader gripped and give them the kind of enjoyment I got out of reading. If ‘Never Look Back’ has achieved that, even a tiny bit, I’d be thrilled.
2) The reactions of Sarah to her stalking appear genuine. Have you had personal experience of stalking or has it happened to someone you know?
Thank you. I’m so pleased Sarah’s ordeal feels real as that was very important to me. I am happy to say I have never experienced stalking personally, although I do have a fear of being watched and it was this that sparked the idea. I have read and watched a lot on stalking and wanted to examine how it would feel to be in such a vulnerable position.
3) The three murders in your debut are quite brutal. Have any aspects of the cases you worked on influenced you and the story you constructed? Do people ask you at parties about gruesome cases you worked on during your time in the law firm? What is your standard answer when they request the gory details?
The MO (modus operandi) for the murders came to me when I was staying in a cottage in Cornwall weirdly enough. I was walking on the coast and the first murder sort of played in my mind like a scene in a movie. I got home, lit the fire and started writing. People definitely ask about where my ideas come from. I think I just have an over-active imagination and it doesn’t take a lot to freak me out. I’m just passing the heebie jeebies on to others.
4) I see that your debut is tagged as ‘DI Mike Lockyer #1’. Will you be developing Lockyer’s character over the coming books? Where will you be leading him?
I have, in fact, just completed book two, ‘No Place To Die’. DI Lockyer returns, however the lead voice passes over to his detective sergeant Jane Bennett who we meet in ‘Never Look Back’. It was great fun finding Jane’s voice and developing her character alongside Lockyer’s.
5) You were long-listed for the CWA Debut Dagger in 2011. Did this recognition spur you on to get serious about writing your debut or was it already in production?
Finding out about the long-list was a huge boost. I was already working on the novel but it gave me the confidence to keep going.
6) Had the fate of each character been decided at the start of the book or did this develop as your writing progressed?
I had a fairly detailed synopsis which I worked from. I tweaked as I went along but I tried to stick to the plot as much as I could to stop me wandering off on a tangent.
7) It appears you enjoy crime fiction. What ‘plot devices’ frustrate you and are you always aware not to use them in your own book?
I do, I love crime fiction. I am a fan of puzzles and solving problems so the genre suits me. As a reader the things that frustrate me most are feeling manipulated or cheated. I don’t object to a red herring or two, as they’re a necessary device. However, if I come to the end of the novel and the killer is either someone we’ve never met or someone I couldn’t possibly have guessed it was, then I’m always a bit miffed. I try very hard to create twists and turns but I am always conscious to stick to the plot and the characters, rather than worrying about fooling the reader. I think the ultimate measure of a successful crime novel for me, as a reader, is if I’m so absorbed in the book that I forget to figure out ‘whodunnit’.
8) Who do you see as your influence as a writer?
I think one of my biggest influences is Stephen King. I’ve been reading his work for the last decade, at least, and I’m never disappointed. I remember his characters more than almost any other writer and he has the ability to draw me into another world entirely. I also greatly admire David Baldacci. His writing is relentless and has the ‘un-put-downable’ quality that I guess all crime or thriller writers hope to achieve.
9) What do you look for when you pick up a book to read?
I am a sucker for a good cover. If it’s crime, then something dark and mysterious will normally draw me in. However, I have my staples so I tend to spot my favourite authors a mile off. I love Karin Slaughter’s covers and Tess Gerritsen’s. They strike me as classy crime. If it’s literary fiction then I’m all about the colour and typeface. I thought the cover to Mr Pip was gorgeous and I bought it without even worrying about the story (which I also loved). So, it’s fair to say I totally ‘judge a book by its cover’. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing?
10) What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you?
Blimey, that’s a tough question. I could name dozens but without a doubt ‘Silence of the Lambs’ would have to be number one. I feel as if I am on a constant quest to create a character like Hannibal Lecter. Mo Hayder’s, ‘Pig Island’ because it inspired me to write and Tess Gerritsen’s ‘The Surgeon’. As soon as I finished it I went out and bought another and another until I had read everything she had ever done.