Thriller of a debut for model crime fighter in Perfect Remains by Helen Fields
Watch out Rebus, McRae and Perez there’s a new detective in the running to become Scotland’s fictional top cop.
- Full feature in Issue No. 11
The adventure-sports loving eligible bachelor with model good looks, Scottish heritage and a French accent is about to make his debut in a thrillingly new fast-paced crime novel.
Luc Callanach, a former Interpol officer who has swapped the Gaulic charms of Lyon for enigmatic Edinburgh, is the lead character in Perfect Remains, the first in a trilogy of books by former barrister Helen Fields.
Callanach has all the makings of a long-running serial sleuth capable of rivalling Ian Rankin’s DI John Rebus, Stuart MacBride’s DS Logan McRae and Anne Cleeves’ DI Jimmy Perez in the affections of Tartan Noir fans.
Like all good crime fiction heroes the Franco-Scottish detective has his flaws and inner demons which the Hampshire-born author does an excellent job of teasing out as the story unfolds.
Slow character building, creative use of sub-plots and adept control over the nail-biting pace of the narrative makes Perfect Remains a real cracker of a page-turner that is truly difficult to put down.
Drawing on years of legal experience as both a prosecution and defence barrister Helen Fields has created a story which accurately portrays police procedure and provides an insight to the criminal mind.
“I spent a lot of time as a barrister in prisons with psychiatrists and sitting opposite people who had committed horrible crimes,” said Helen, 46, who admits to still being haunted by some of her old cases.
“I have always been fascinated by what goes on inside the heads of very dangerous and damaged people. Too often we stereotype bad guys as being evil but the problem is that within their own heads they are never that.
“In their minds there is always some justification for what happened which seems perfectly reasonable. Things are very rarely black and white.
”But, it’s not just the criminals that Helen can draw experiences from. As a defence barrister she saw first hand how people coped under pressure of being accused of crimes they didn’t commit.
“Those were the ones that always haunted me the most,” said Helen.
“There were probably three trials I was involved with during my time at the bar, all rape trials, in which men came to me with absolute evidence they were innocent. Fortunately those men were not convicted and got the right result but I saw the emotional toll and impact the allegations had on them and their families.”
Helen, who lives in Hampshire with her husband, three children and two dogs, said she had chosen Scotland as the location of her debut novel for a number of reasons.
“I wanted my main character to experience enough of a clash of cultures to make the story and his experience of moving from France more interesting,” said Helen, a frequent visitor to Scotland since childhood.
“My father loved Scotland and would regularly take us there on holiday. He always had a fascination for Scotland which he passed on to me. I fell in love with the country and the people so when I came to write the book I didn’t even really think about setting it anywhere else. I had the opportunity to put the characters in Scotland and it felt right immediately.”
Helen said her choice of Edinburgh as the setting for the book was also based on her desire to find somewhere her French hero could identify with but still experience a culture change.
“I thought if I dropped Callanach into London the city has gone so metro he wouldn’t stand out as much,” she said.
“It was also a really good excuse for me to come up to Scotland a lot more often to do research. I don’t put locations in the book that I haven’t been to. Google Maps and the Internet are great, but until you go somewhere you can’t really begin to get the true feeling of a place.
“Also, when I come up to Scotland everybody is always so willing to engage and give me help by explaining how things work and how to make scenarios realistic. It is absolutely joyful,” said Helen whose research took her from the central belt into the Cairngorms and across the country.
Perfect Remains is Helen’s first novel with a mainstream publisher and is part of a three-book deal featuring DI Callanach. Already the second book, Perfect Prey, is in the hands of the publishers to be released later this year and Helen has nearly finished writing the third.
“It takes about six months from starting to write to getting a book into a reasonable shape,” she said. “But, I have to set myself tight deadlines. Monday to Friday I have to produce at least 2,000 words a day, and if I haven’t managed that I make myself work weekends.
“It’s really hard sometimes when I’m not in the mood to write so I have to force myself to treat it like any other job in which there has to be output.”
Even before Perfect Remains goes on sale on 26 January negotiations are already underway about turning the crime series into a television drama.
“The TV people absolutely loved the fact it is set in Scotland and that it has a variety of characters. Certainly Scotland lends itself to television because it is so visually captivating, both inside and outside the cities,” said Helen.
“They also like that Callanach has a completely different look to what we have all come to expect from the usual stereotypical detective.”