Cara Hunter: Books by my bedside

Eva Mackevic

What’s currently on your bedside table?

The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox. It was given to me by one of my closest friends (also a New Zealander, like Knox). I love her taste so I think this will be a treat.

Which books would you recommend to your closest friend right now, and why?

I’ve just come back from a holiday where I read my usual half tonnage of crime thrillers (my favourite beach reading as well as a bit of a busman’s holiday!). The one that really stood out was If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch. It’s about a man in a coma trying to solve his own murder—a great premise and really beautifully written, with a very moving ending. Some of my other recent favourites have been The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald and The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances. And pretty much anything by Alex Marwood or Lisa Jewell.

Which book are you planning to take on your next journey, and why?

The Chalk Man by C J Taylor. Partly because it looks like a cracking read (recommendation enough!) and partly because we’re both debut crime writers for Penguin this year so we keep running into each other. It’s always fascinating to read a book by someone you know.

Tell us about your latest book

Close to Home is the first of a new series of crime novels set in Oxford. But it’s the real city, not the Oxford of Inspector Morse and ivy-clad quads. An eight-year-old girl goes missing from her own garden during a barbecue party and yet apparently no one sees a thing. And as the mystery deepens no one is left untouched—the parents, the brother, the wider neighbourhood, and the police themselves, not least my Detective Inspector Adam Fawley, who has lost his own child in tragic circumstances.

Places where terrible things happen are always called “close-knit” (how many times have you seen them described that way on true crime TV?). But that’s rarely true, not when you start to look beneath the surface. Everyone has secrets, and—as one of my favourite TV detectives, Robert Goren, always says—everyone lies.

Do you discuss your own work-in-progress with anyone?

Yes—my editor and my agent. They both have really good judgement, both about the technical aspects of putting a book together, and the commercial side of publishing. What readers are looking for and what makes a book really sing. I’m lucky to have them!

Which book made you want to write?

I don’t think it was one single book that did it. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love words, and that turned into a passion for literature (which I studied at Oxford). Writing something yourself is a whole different ball-game, of course. I write crime mysteries because that’s what I love to read. Human beings are hard-wired to “find out what happened.” We really are a terribly nosey species….

If you weren’t writing you’d be…?

Probably watching crime on TV! My husband always used to tease me about it, but now he just looks knowing and says ‘ah, research’! Seriously, I’ve learned so much about the craft of crime from TV. Some of the best and edgiest writing in the genre is on screen rather than on page these days. Look at Mindhunter or the first series of True Detective. I’ve tried to evolve a style for the Fawley books that gives readers some of that same experience. Short intercut scenes, lots of dialogue, lots of energy and pace. A lot of my early readers have compared Close to Home to the TV series Broadchurch. That was probably the nicest compliment they could give me.

Close to Home by Cara Hunter is out now (Penguin, £7.99)