Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it.
Critical Incidents is a slight departure for me. My first four novels, most recently Before We Met and Keep You Close, were psychological suspense but Critical Incidents is literary crime for readers who like Tana French or Susie Steiner’s books. It’s also the first in a series, something I’ve never done before. I wanted to invest in a set of characters (most of) whom survive for longer than one book, and to write a story grounded in the real world, with real people. And, I hope, some zingy dialogue.
The story centers on Robin who returns to her hometown, Birmingham, after being fired from her high-profile job as a DCI in the Met. It’s a real climb-down: not only has she failed professionally – much to her brother Luke’s delight – but she is now living with her parents, back in her old teenage bedroom, sharing bunkbeds with her thirteen-year-old daughter, Lennie. But worse is to come, when her best friend Corinna, the only reason to feel cheerful about being back, is found dead in her burned-out house, her husband wanted for the murder. Needless to say, Robin cannot stand idly by.
Where did you grow up and what was family life like?
I grew up in two villages in Warwickshire with my parents and two younger sisters. For the first eight years, my life was very rural – I went to primary school in a village where we did pancake races up the one main street on Shrove Tuesday and the old stocks still stood on the path up to the church. Later, I went to school in the metropolis that is Leamington Spa, an hour each way on a bus that was the highlight of my social world. My parents showed us all sorts of things, it was a very interesting childhood. To this day, I have a fossil collection in a shoebox in my wardrobe.
Academic or creative at school?
Academic, with an emphasis on English and languages. I was lucky enough that my school offered both Latin and Ancient Greek. I loved both.
First job you really wanted to do?
My first real Saturday job, on the record counter at WHSmith in Stratford-on-Avon. I looked forward to it all week. I earned £2.57 an hour but frankly, I would have paid them.
Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?
I don’t. I’ve wanted to write as long as I can remember.
Who are your real-life heroes?
George Eliot, Georgia O’Keefe, Hilary Mantel, Lady Gaga
Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?
I feel as if I’m rarely not in an embarrassing situation.
DIY expert or phone a friend?
I’m not bad at practical things, I can light fires and would probably survive on a desert island, but even if I wanted to fix the hoover in my house, I wouldn’t. My husband derives an unseemly amount of pleasure from that sort of thing. It would be wrong to deprive him of it.
Sun worshipper or night owl?
Night owl by nature but increasingly a sun worshipper since having a child. You can get a lot done, I’ve discovered.
A book that had you in tears
Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson. I read it in the weeks just after having my daughter and I found it almost unbearably poignant.
A book that made you laugh out loud.
Susie Steiner’s DS Manon Bradshaw books are full of dry humour. I love them. Tana French and Marian Keyes are also wicked funny.
One piece of life advice you give everyone
The day anyone comes to me for life advice, we’re in trouble. Until then, ‘This, too, shall pass’ is helpful.
About the book.
Detective Inspector Robin Lyons is going home.
Dismissed for misconduct from the Met’s Homicide Command after refusing to follow orders, unable to pay her bills (or hold down a relationship), she has no choice but to take her teenage daughter Lennie and move back in with her parents in the city she thought she’d escaped forever at 18.
In Birmingham, sharing a bunkbed with Lennie and navigating the stormy relationship with her mother, Robin works as a benefit-fraud investigator – to the delight of those wanting to see her cut down to size.
Only Corinna, her best friend of 20 years seems happy to have Robin back. But when Corinna’s family is engulfed by violence and her missing husband becomes a murder suspect, Robin can’t bear to stand idly by as the police investigate. Can she trust them to find the truth of what happened? And why does it bother her so much that the officer in charge is her ex-boyfriend – the love of her teenage life?
As Robin launches her own unofficial investigation and realises there may be a link to the disappearance of a young woman, she starts to wonder how well we can really know the people we love – and how far any of us will go to protect our own.
I loved Critical Incidents- I was a huge fan of previous books from this author, this is a change of direction but equally compelling and with the same quality writing.
This is a mix of police procedural, family drama and psychological elements that works extremely well, the group dynamic of characters well rounded and engaging. Sitting at the centre is main protagonist Robin Lyons, in some ways your typical haunted detective but with a real depth of feeling to her background that immerses you right into her world.
The mystery element with it’s personal connections is cleverly woven with realistically relevant layers – an excellent introduction to the start of a series, Critical Incidents offers not only an intriguing plot but sets you up well for whatever may come next.
I loved it. Looking forward to more Robin Lyons in the future.