Crime / Television / Writing

Investigating a family murder in a new way

I’ve enjoyed plenty of reflected glory in recent years from the success of my brilliant crime writer friend Cara Hunter.

Her Adam Fawley books have become worldwide hits, and now she has branched out with her first non-Fawley book.

She kindly sent me a preview copy of Murder in the Family, an ingenious crime thriller, told mainly in the form of the script for a TV show investigating a cold case.

The range of characters assembled to reexamine the mystery would grace any Agatha Christie story, and as they dig deeper, the book takes the reader through a series of twists and turns until … well, you can find out when the it’s published in July (2023).

It’s another phenomenal page-turner, and after reading it, like any investigator, I had a few questions. Cara agreed to answer:

Some of your Fawley books are inspired by real cases, was there a real-life inspiration for Murder in the Family?

Not a single one, no, but it was definitely born out of an amalgamation of several true-crime series that have particularly impressed me. One of these was Murder on Middle Beach, a film made by Madison Hamburg about the unsolved murder of his mother, Barbara, in 2010. This is a very personal investigation which takes Hamburg into private and very painful territory, whether that’s a potential financial motive or the unresolved conflicts within the family.  It’s the emotional connection between victim and film-maker that makes this so compelling, and that was one of the seeds of Guy Howard’s story in Murder in the Family.

There was also a more structural ‘inspiration’, which came from Joe Berlinger’s series The Wrong Man, where he brings together a group of law enforcement experts to re-examine potential miscarriages of justice, including Patricia Rorrer, Vonda Smith and Curtis Flowers. What I particularly liked was the fly-on-the-wall style, watching the team at work, and the relationships that developed between a group of people who’d never worked with each other before. And I found myself wondering, what if I took that same format and pushed it even further? What if a team like this included people who actually knew a lot more about the original case than they’d led everyone to believe? What if, in classic Agatha Christie style, one of them was the guilty party…?

It’s brilliantly done, and it’s your first crime fiction without DI Adam Fawley and his team. Is Fawley coming back?

Most definitely! In fact I’m writing ‘Fawley Seven’ now. And I’m taking the opportunity to ‘catch up’ with chronological time. We last saw Adam in 2018, in Hope to Die, but the next book will be set in 2024. Everyone’s lives and careers will have moved forward, which allows me to shake things up a little. Not to mention leapfrogging the pandemic!

I recognise a mutual friend who seems to be the basis for one of your characters. Were they all based on real people? How did you decide your cast of characters?

I admire your forensic acumen! 😉 Yes, some characters drew on aspects of people I know, but none of them are 100% ‘real’. I admit I did have some fun inviting some of my friends to be the ‘faces’ used on the CVs at the beginning of the book. As for the range, I wanted an international feel for this book, and the story does range far and wide, so I deliberately brought in an NYPD detective – he was inspired, in part by the character Bill Tench, played by Holt McCallany in Mindhunter, another of my favourite TV crime series.

The format is very unusual. It’s certainly as gripping as any novel, but presented very differently. What made you do it this way?

Anyone who’s read a Fawley book will know I’ve always employed what’s now being called ‘mixed media’ – transcripts, social media feeds, news items, and so on. My readers responded so enthusiastically in the first book, Close to Home, that I’ve done more and more with each new book, including a crime scene drawing, body maps, TV scripts, interview transcripts and a podcast. What seems to appeal to people the most is the chance to become a detective themselves – to have access to the raw material of the investigation. So, I thought, why not do away with the connecting prose altogether? Why not go fully ‘disintermediated’? And that’s what I’ve done. There’s no narrator in Murder of the Family, no filtering through an omniscient third party. Just the characters, and the documents they find. And the reader, piecing it all together….

The book has been picked up for a TV production – you’ve done half the work for them, the way it’s written! When are we likely to see this on screen?

The TV rights have indeed been bought by Sam Mendes’ company Neal Street Productions, which is incredibly exciting for me, as you can imagine! It’s very early days, and TV always takes a huge amount of time, but we’ve had a good initial discussion, and they have some fascinating ideas about how to deepen and extend what’s on the page. I can’t wait to see what a professional screenwriter makes of it!

Will there be more non-Fawley books? Will we see any of these characters returning? Where might they be set?

I now have a four-book deal with HarperCollins, covering two standalones and two Fawleys. So there will be at least one more standalone, probably in 2025, after Fawley Seven in 2024. I have no idea what that might be yet, and maybe I will come up with another story that would fit the ‘true-crime TV’ format. Who knows – I’ll have to wait and see!

Looking forward to it very much!

You can read my blog posts about Cara’s previous books (and the launch parties) here: Close to Home, In the Dark, No Way Out, All the Rage, and The Whole Truth.

If you’re a writer or publisher looking for help with editing, proofreading, or other editorial services,  please check out Weltch Media here.

One thought on “Investigating a family murder in a new way

  1. Pingback: Investigating a 'Murder in the Family' - Weltch Media

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