Cara Hunter is killing it at the moment with her new crime thriller Murder In The Family whose TV rights were instantly snapped up by Sam Mendes’ Neal Street production company, and with a book tour kicking off this month.
But the famous Oxford author, whose books have sold in over 29 countries, Ukraine signing up this week, is remarkably cool, calm and collected when we meet for a catch up, relishing the chance to get out on the road and meet her avid fans.
‘it was ferociously difficult to write – like playing 3D chess’
“There has been so much buzz about Murder In The Family because I don’t think anything like this has been published before. People seem to really like the idea of an unsolved crime being re-examined by a team of experts on the set of a true-crime show,” she says.
“And lots of people who haven’t read my books before are reading it (Murder In The Family has been published abroad but is not available until July 20 in the UK), so it’s introducing me to a whole new audience,” she adds.
“But it was ferociously difficult to write,” she laughs, “like playing 3D chess, especially when all the secrets start coming out, because it’s a lock room mystery which is often how PD James and Agatha Christie started when writing their novels. This is the same formula with a modern twist and a true crime angle.”
Cara has always been self-admittedly obsessed with true crime drama and re-examinations of cold cases by experts, so perhaps it’s not a big surprise that she has adopted this winning formula for herself.
” I just thought I could play around with that and the experts connections to the crime -what they aren’t letting on – and what’s going on on behind the scenes,” she explains.
‘I want my readers to be shocked but not surprised’
Based on the premise of Agatha Christie‘s And Then There Were None, Cara has swivelled her gaze away from her million copy bestselling DI Adam Fawley series READ ABOUT IT HERE set in Oxford, to focus on this one-off novel about the unsolved murder of Luke Ryder, found dead in the garden of the family home in London in 2003, leaving behind a wealthy, older widow and three step-children.
“As their antagonism towards each other gets more and more marked as time goes on, the net tightens and they start turning on each other,” she reveals. “So you have to get a sense of who your characters are at the same time because I want my readers to be shocked but not surprised.”
‘This was the first time I didn’t know who the killer was until half way through’
So where does Cara (a nom de plume) start? “At the beginning the plot is like a skeleton and I keep adding more and more flesh to it, while remaining really fleet-footed to keep people on their toes until the end.”
“This was also the first time I didn’t know who the killer was until half way through,” she reveals. “I thought I’d just write and see what emerged, which is exactly what happened. Then, it’s just a case of putting them in plain sight of everyone without making anything too obvious.”
But there are also personal details hidden within, the concealed house depicted in Murder In The Family based on a house in South Kensington where’s Cara’s grandmother used to clean: “I remember her telling me about it when I was little and wanted to use that in this book,” she says.
Murder In The Family is part of a four book deal with Harper Collins for two stand alone and two DI Adam Fawley books. (Cara has already started writing the next in the Oxford detective series).
‘What’s not to like – meeting the people who buy and love your books? It’s heart-warming and the audiences always surprise me’
But first she’s back on the road and travelling the length and breadth of the country to meet her fans: “It will be nice to get out of Oxford for a bit and give Adam Fawley a bit of space before I get back to him,” she grins. “But I’m taking my time. All I can tell you is that the next Adam Fawley book is being catapulted forward into 2024 when six years will have passed, which enables me to give the characters a bit of a reboot.
As for the tour Cara likes leaving her author’s ivory tower. “What’s not to like – meeting the people who buy and love your books? It’s heart-warming and the audiences always surprise me,” she says.
And with that, she’s back home to Adam Fawley, the pilot scripts have already been written for the ensuing TV series, four episodes panned for each, riding the crime fiction wave in great style.
Cara Hunter will be at:
July 13, 6pm, Abingdon Library (ticket-holders can buy pre-copies). Book at 01235 520374 or email email@example.com
July 25, 6.30pm, Carterton Library. Book at 01993 841492 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
July 27, 7.30pm, Bicester Library via Coles Books with JP Delaney. Book at 01869 252181.
August 1, Blackwells, Oxford with Sharon Bolton and Fiona Cummins. Book here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/murder-in-the-family-cara-hunter-with-sharon-bolton-and-fiona-cummins-tickets-649697461597
Cara Hunter will also be appearing at Beacon Lit Fest on Saturday July 8, Chichester Library on July 11, Farnham Library on July 19, the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate on July 21 and Our Bookshop in Tring on August 2.
Murder In The Family by Cara Hunter will be available from all good UK bookstores from July 20.