The East Park Syndicate, like any good murder mystery, starts with the discovery of a body. In this case, the body of the mayor of East Park – businessman and political insider – Doug Clarke.
The story is driven by several questions:
- Who killed Doug Clarke?
- Why was he killed?
- Will Inspector West and his team solve the mystery and arrest the killer?
As you’d expect, I’ve also thrown in a few curveballs to make solving the crime just that little bit more of a challenge for Carl West and his team.
No story exists in a vacuum. There are always social problems within a story’s context that will influence people’s behaviour, so it’s not surprising that a few of the social issues currently playing out in Australia found their way into the tapestry of Doug Clarke’s story as it unfolded.
And, let me confess, the story of this mystery did unfold, even though I tried to plan it and write an outline so I’d know where the story was going before I started. It turns out, I don’t write stories that way. I write using a method known as writing into the unknown.
So, when I started writing, I knew who the victim was and how he had been killed, and I’d drawn up his family tree so Inspector West would have someone to interview after he’d identified the body. The only other thing I knew was some of the action would be taking place in a remote location.
The details of the story emerged as I tried to find out why Doug Clarke had been killed and who killed him. At least in my investigation of the murder, I had an advantage over Inspector West. I could get into the stories of the other characters without telling the inspector what they knew.
I think giving you some insights into the backstory of the criminals adds to the suspense – especially when the storylines will intersect, as they inevitably do. If you’ve read any of the other Inspector West stories, you’ll know there is always more than one crime story inside the main story and that, somehow, I’ll pull them all together and surprise you.
It’s always fun constructing that web and watching how the storylines come together. Of course, a lot of thought goes into making sure you don’t get to guess who the killer is too early and laying down the breadcrumbs that allow you to see how it all comes in the end.
For those interested in the personal life of the main characters of the series, The East Park Syndicate also explores the life of Carl West outside the confines of the investigation and touches on some of the relationship stresses and strains his detectives live with. I like to expose the human side of my main characters to remind you that police officers are people with ordinary lives like the rest of us, even if their professional lives sound a little more exciting than ours.
One of the challenges of writing crime fiction is keeping things believable, so it was reassuring to read a news report describing a police raid on a farmhouse in a remote part of the country that aligned with the scene I had written about such a raid a few days earlier. They even found the same thing I had raided the place to find. One happy writer reading the news that day.
And, for those who wonder how the police track down criminals using mobile phone data, I’ve recently discovered that police in Australia are now using an app that gives them instant access to a mobile phone’s location data. It works much like that app that lets you find your phone. Something to think about the next time you leave the house with your mobile phone in your pocket.
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