Aberdeen’s annual crime fiction extravaganza, Granite Noir, is open for business as the Lemon Tree Theatre fills with chat of books and authors. Each event is cleverly themed. Mucho Mistrust, as the title suggests, explores the terrifying consequences of secrets and misplaced trust.
Edi Stark, radio producer, presenter and chair, opens by introducing David Ewen, local journalist and writer of radio comedy, who reads from a piece entitled Backwater, available in the next edition of Pushing Out The Boat. Stark goes on to explain what links the panellists; each author confident in exploring deviant female characters, creating protagonists that although interesting are perhaps not immediately likeable.
Renée Knight, whose debut, Disclaimer was a runaway bestseller, shares how her latest novel, The Secretary, was inspired not by the time she spent as a secretary at the BBC working for Joan Bakewell, but rather by the secretary in the Nigella Lawson case and during the phone hacking scandal when a secretary was put on trial for perjury. She became interested in when a personal assistant and boss become so close that professional lines blur, drawing nearer to an old-fashioned mistress/servant relationship.
Next, Lisa Ballantyne, who, following the international success of her Richard and Judy bestseller The Guilty One then Redemption Road, gave up her day job with Glasgow University to write full time, explains why in Little Liar, her teenage protagonist, Angela, initially behaves not in a manner expected of a victim. She is violent, horrible to her mother, and yet Ballantyne grew to have enormous empathy with her. Ballantyne enjoys playing with themes of guilt and innocence, confessing she finds family drama a rich seam.
Meanwhile, author Tara Isabella Burton’s Social Creature transports the reader to the gig economy of New York, where individuals juggle three or four jobs to make ends meet and every minute of every day defines who they are. Her protagonist, Louise, has been described as a sociopath, although Burton doesn’t think of her in that way. Louise’s friend, Lavinia is wealthy and bohemian, with no need of a day job. Social Creature is an exploration of their relationship, which turns toxic and ultimately fatal. Burton admits to exploiting the theme of imposter syndrome, taking it to its limits by making it literal.
Mucho Mistrust is a thought-provoking event exploring the dark side of female secrets. The audience are right to trust this author panel with their time.