Who Took Eden Mulligan? was inspired by idea that we are all unreliable narrators. The truth is only as trustworthy as the storyteller. I was interested in how subjective the truth of the past is and how ephemeral our idea of truth is. When the novel opens, it’s with a confession but the DI Danny Stowe and forensic psychologist, Dr Rose Lainey, don’t trust it. So how do you solve a murder case that appears to have solved itself?
Research for this book took me down the path of the true-life stories of people who went missing during Northern Ireland’s Troubles. Despite extensive searches, some of the people abducted, have never been found. I’m not the first writer to use the so-called ‘disappeared’ as inspiration; each of us bring our own unique take on this aspect of the Troubles, but I wanted to explore how it affects the family for years afterwards, especially when it is the mother who is absent. I felt a need to explore the space left behind and to seek to understand how difficult it is for families to have no answers.
At the heart of Who Took Eden Mulligan? is a cold-case mystery wrapped in a present-day multiple murder investigation. While I was undoubtedly inspired by the horrific stories of our past, it was important to me not to attempt to take on any real person’s story. This isn’t a fictionalised retelling, instead I have looked to the recent past and in reimagining it, I have seen how it changes and transforms.
Then there is the wider story of how a community reacts to a crime. Some communities can be complicit in hushing up events, others add to the rumour mill, and somewhere along the way the truth of what has happened, is contorted or fades away. I am interested in hidden spaces, unsaid words, the secrets and mystery that are left behind when the crime scene officials have left, and the police tape is no longer flickering in the breeze. I love anything connected to cold cases and the idea that with new thinking and even new technology, old crimes can now be solved. There is something so alluring about a mystery that is close to being solved but just out of reach.
I think most crime writers have a heightened sense of fear and a strong sense of wanting to see justice done even if it doesn’t always arrive in the form you expect it to. We try to make the world right, if only between the pages of our books.
As for themes, in this book, I was playing with the idea of home, what is it, how to we create it and what does it mean when you don’t have a strong anchor in your life. The character of Eden Mulligan allowed me to explore issues of class and gender through the depiction of how she was treated by society, as a mainly lone mother, glamorous and working class, living in a small enclave of a Catholic community.
I studied English and Politics at university before training as a journalist. Crime writing feels like coming full circle in many ways and the crime novel is an ideal arena to explore issues of corruption, social exclusion, and identity. The study of Politics is concerned with how we organize society and make it work, the ideologies that form the basis of our governments; whereas, in studying English literature I was more interested in the individual and how we respond to the world around us and find creative expression. Now I am undertaking a critical-creative PhD, looking at crime fiction from Northern Ireland. I am fortunate to be able to immerse myself in the genre that I love.
P.S. Launching this book in the middle of a pandemic is not what I had envisaged, so if you are good enough to buy a copy, please, take a pic and share it with me via your preferred social media. If you read it and love, write a review and tell everyone! In the absence of having a glamorous launch party I will be sitting in my pyjamas with a glass of champagne, toasting all you lovely readers.
(c) Sharon Dempsey
About Who Took Eden Mulligan?
‘They’re dead. They’re all dead. It’s my fault. I killed them.’
Those are the words of Iona Gardener, who stands bloodied and staring as she confesses to the murder of four people in a run-down cottage outside of Belfast.
Outside the cottage, five old dolls are hanging from a tree. Inside the cottage, the words “WHO TOOK EDEN MULLIGAN?” are graffitied on the wall, connecting the murder scene with the famous cold case of Eden Mulligan, a mother-of-five who went missing during The Troubles.
But this case is different. Right from the start.
Because no one in the community is willing to tell the truth, and the only thing DI Danny Stowe and forensic psychologist Rose Lainey can be certain of is that Iona Gardener’s confession is false….
A creepy, gritty and very compelling crime novel, perfect for fans of Patricia Gibney, Angela Marsons and Jane Casey.
Order your copy online here.