And now for something completely different.
Okay, not that different. It seems like yesterday when my first book was being published, and all of a sudden it's 2018 and my sixth book is going to be published next year. It's still a thriller, but it's set in the UK. And for the first time, it doesn't star Carter Blake.
I was quite keen to write a standalone book this time around, and lucky for me, my publisher thought this was a good idea too. I've come up with a few story ideas over the past few years that I liked, but weren't quite the right fit for Blake, and this was one of them.
It starts with a normal person, in a normal situation, and then something abnormal happens.
Jenny Bowen is your standard thirtysomething workaholic Londoner. Always busy, always rushing around, not taking time to notice the time pass, until her personal life takes a couple of major hits. First, her marriage breaks down. Second, her father dies unexpectedly.
Her dad's house is in the Scottish Highlands, where Jenny spent part of her teenage years, so she's heading north to take care of the usual duties that follow the death of a parent.
She decides life is moving a little too fast for her, so it might be healthy to decompress, take the long way home. She's always been curious about the sleeper train that runs overnight from London to Scotland, and decides to book a berth on a whim.
She boards at the last minute. As she's finding her way to her room, she sees a harassed-looking woman with a young child in tow: a little girl, maybe seven or eight years old. She's carrying a grey stuffed rabbit.
She ventures out of her room and stumbles on the body of the woman she saw the previous evening. It looks like an overdose. She finds a guard, they take her to the staff quarters and offer her water, try to calm her nerves. All of a sudden she remembers the little girl, realising she's an orphan now. Is she okay? Somebody is with her, right?
The guard looks back at her, confused.
"What little girl?"
It was a fun experience writing something a little different from the previous books, and getting to play with a new protagonist and a whole new cast of characters.
I particularly enjoyed getting to travel on and do a lot of research about the Caledonian Sleeper, which I'll be blogging about soon. One of the coolest things was that I serendipitiously picked the exact right time to set a book on board the train.
Next year, they're going to be introducing luxurious new 21st century carriages, but right now, the sleeper uses the oldest rolling stock in Britain, dating from the early 1980s. That's great for building atmosphere, of course, but as a mystery writer, it means the technology is a little behind the times: no air conditioning, no wifi, and most importantly, no CCTV cameras.
I'm hoping to have a cover to show you soon, and members of my Readers Club will get the first peek, so if you're not already signed up, go do it.
Because it's a departure from the Blake books, we're going with a slightly different branding. I'll be M.J. Cross on the cover of this book, for starters. What does the J stand for? I'm open to suggestions, but I'm currently leaning toward 'Jedbediah'.
What She Saw Last Night is published in the UK on 18 April 2019, and you can preorder it now:
Trade paperback (large format)