Here’s Looking At You, Kids, a play on the bittersweet line from the movie Casablanca, adopts a sinister feel when used as a title for a session at Aberdeen’s crime fiction festival, Granite Noir. Edinburgh writer and chair of today’s event Diarmid Mogg elaborates on the title by introducing three authors, three gripping psychological thrillers, that each explore complex relationships between parents and children.
First up is Sanjida Kay, who reads a heart-wrenching extract from The Stolen Child, published by Corvus and already optioned for film. It’s the story of Zoe and Ollie’s adopted daughter, Evie, who at the age of seven begins to receive gifts from someone claiming to be her birth father. Soon Evie is in peril.
As well as writing, Kay has a PhD in chimpanzees and presents wildlife programmes for the BBC. When Mogg enquires whether her studies into chimpanzee behaviour has influenced her fiction writing, Kay acknowledges that our closest relatives, chimps, also commit murder and infanticide. As humans we attempt to keep a lid on base feelings, perhaps not as successfully as we imagine.
Next to read is Colette McBeth, who worked as news editor for Sky and as a BBC political reporter. She draws the audience in with an extract from An Act of Silence. Her protagonist’s anguish is palpable as McBeth examines parenthood in its later stages and the depths a mother will descend to protect her son. She explains that whenever someone doubts the person they are supposed to love, then tension will arise – a gift for suspense writers.
Last up is Melanie McGrath, co-founder of Killer Women, a collective of female crime writers. Under the pen name MJ McGrath she writes Arctic mysteries including White Heat, The Boy in the Snow, and The Bone Seeker. Today, however, she is Mel McGrath as she reads from her first psychological thriller, Give Me The Child. The juxtaposition between the ignorance of McGrath’s narrator and the delicious dread the audience experiences, fearing what’s to come, creates an ominous foreboding.
McGrath’s predominant interest lies in family secrets, believing children are the best secret keepers, often with disastrous consequences. Not forgetting that children can be dangerous towards other children.
A chilling yet fascinating session discussing abuse and mental health, as well as the toxicity of burying truth.