Cooking up my latest crime: No Way Out by Cara Hunter

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No Way Out

By Cara Hunter

‘Where do your ideas come from?’ Every writer gets asked that, and though it seems like a simple question, the answer is often anything but. So when the lovely people at Writing.ie asked me to do a piece about the inspiration for my new crime novel, No Way Out, it wasn’t obvious where to start. Not only do you have to be careful about spoilers (intentional or not), but if my own experience is anything to go by, there’s rarely one single inspiration for any novel – it’s a melange of a whole range of different ingredients. And then I thought, that’s actually rather a good way of looking at it – why not think about the elements of a book like the ingredients of a recipe? So let’s get cooking!

Take one location …

No Way Out is set in Oxford, like the first two books in the Fawley series. It’s not just a beautiful world-famous city, it’s also got a good claim to be a world capital of crime. Most of that is down to the Morse franchise, both on the page and on the screen. I love both, but I’ve made it a point to occupy different parts of the city, both geographically, and demographically (if you see what I mean). The centre of Oxford may be anchored to the university, but it’s ringed about by very different communities, from the leafy Victorian suburb to the north, to the much more diverse and dynamic district around the Cowley Road. And then there are the social communities – academics, students, long-term residents; many from overseas, some just passing through. And it’s where those different types of community intersect that the stories begin…

Fold in appetising characters…

No Way Out is the third DI Adam Fawley book, and while I’ve made sure you can read them as standalones, I think it does make sense to read them in order. Mostly, of course, because I’m developing the CID team as we go along. And it is very much a team: I’ve been really delighted by the number of readers who’ve said they like how much ‘air-time’ the secondary police officers get – that it’s not all about Fawley. With each book we dig a little deeper, and find out a little more. In this one, for example, we discover more of DC Gareth Quinn’s back story. On the surface he always appears a typical Jack the Lad: a bit flash, a bit of a ladies’ man, and a lot cocky. But in No Way Out we start to see more of his history, and start to understand why he is the way he is.

And then there’s Adam. He’s the moral heart of the books and the source of the darkly dry humour that runs through them all. One of the reviewers of Close to Home described him as “a cop who sidesteps all of those weary ‘maverick’ tropes while staying kind, compassionate, clever and just that bit out of the ordinary.” I couldn’t put it better myself! I’m not the only one who’s a bit in love with  Adam – he’s actually had a couple of marriage proposals! But seriously, writing him has been a bit like peeling an onion (see what I did there?), and I learn new things about him every time. In this book his marriage is in crisis, and it’s touch and go whether the deep love he and his wife have for each other will win out over the terrible loss that threatens to tear them apart.

Whip up a satisfying plot…

I’m a complete addict of TV crime, both crime drama and true crime, and I find the latter especially fascinating as a source of potential stories. I’ve watched many true crime shows where the events described are so bizarre that if I used them in a novel my editor would just tell me no-one would ever believe it. But that’s the whole point – these things actually happened.

In my previous novel, In The Dark, the basic scaffolding of the plot drew on the Josef Fritzl case in Austria – his notorious confinement and abuse of his daughter, which has also had parallels in the US, notably in the abductions of Jaycee Dugard, Natascha Kampusch, and the young women imprisoned by Ariel Castro in Cleveland, Ohio. But for me, the basic premise of the ‘cellar captivity’ was only the jumping-off point – it wasn’t about the specifics of any of those cases. What I wanted to do was examine a story like that from a different angle – to provide a twist, in every sense. No Way Out does something similar with a very high-profile crime committed in the UK about ten years ago, but I can’t say exactly what without giving too much away!

Season generously …

This is often the most enjoyable part of the whole process – where the raw bones of the story start to cook down and you can stir in all the little details that give it its texture and flavour. It might be a passer-by you’ve seen in the street, something you saw on the news, or even something you dreamt about. It all gets added to the pot. Including – needless to say – a liberal sprinkling of delicious red herrings….

So there you have it: blend together, and (I hope) enjoy!

(c) Cara Hunter

I’m lucky enough to live in the city I write about. Oxford will be familiar to crime fans across the whole world because of the fabulous Morse novels and TV, but my version of the town is a long way from the beautiful ivy-clad colleges. A much edgier place where the crimes are darker and closer to home.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and viewer of crime – I’ve learned so much from the outstanding writing that we now see on crime TV like Line of Duty or Broadchurch, and I’ve tried to recreate the experience of watching series like that for my readers. I love true crime TV as well – my husband used to tease me about it but now just nods sagely and says ‘research’ !

What else about me? I have pet cats who do their best to distract me whenever I get close to a keyboard (if you have cats, you’ll know), I love travelling, spending time with friends, and I have never knowingly turned down a glass of champagne….

About No Way Out:

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked.

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn’t an accident. It was murder.

And the killer is still out there…

Order your copy online here.

About the author

I’m lucky enough to live in the city I write about. Oxford will be familiar to crime fans across the whole world because of the fabulous Morse novels and TV, but my version of the town is a long way from the beautiful ivy-clad colleges. A much edgier place where the crimes are darker and closer to home.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and viewer of crime – I’ve learned so much from the outstanding writing that we now see on crime TV like Line of Duty or Broadchurch, and I’ve tried to recreate the experience of watching series like that for my readers. I love true crime TV as well – my husband used to tease me about it but now just nods sagely and says ‘research’ !

What else about me? I have pet cats who do their best to distract me whenever I get close to a keyboard (if you have cats, you’ll know), I love travelling, spending time with friends, and I have never knowingly turned down a glass of champagne….

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