Northern Noir is a sell out at the Lemon Tree Theatre, on the second day of Aberdeen’s crime fiction festival, Granite Noir. Host, Jacky Collins, relaxed manner sets the tone, as she introduces local author Jan Simpson. Simpson, a creative writing student at Aberdeen University studying towards a PHD, reads in Doric from Day Trip, an atmospheric short piece that is both poignant and unsettling before Collins sets the question that requires answering from tonight’s panel: What is it about the north that makes it the perfect setting for fictional murder?
First up is Claire MacLeary, no stranger to Granite Noir, as she launched her debut novel, Cross Purpose, in Aberdeen three years ago. Longlisted for the 2017 McIlvanney prize, all three in her Harcus and Laird series have been set in or around the city. Her latest release, Runaway, tackles the gritty subjects of homelessness and women’s refuges. MacLeary explains how she felt Aberdeen was under-represented in fiction, and yet has everything required for the crime genre – a cathedral, a university, the docks, affluent suburbs, deprived estates and an agricultural hinterland. She wants to show there is more to Aberdeen than oil. An entertaining panellist, MacLeary confesses to injecting humour into her writing, to balance the darkness.
Meanwhile, Lucy Foley, author of bestselling sweeping historical fiction, including The Invitation and Last Letter from Istanbul, explains why she was drawn to write https://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/client/lucy-foley/work/the-hunting-party-1; a modern murder mystery, written in the style of Agatha Christie, set in a remote lodge in the Scottish Highlands. Foley confesses to always having been drawn to the north and to the wild, remote spaces that are extremely beautiful, yet teeming with danger. It was whilst holidaying in a hunting lodge that she was warned that in the event of heavy snowfall she might be blocked in. And so the perfect setting for a fictional murder mystery was born. Think of the claustrophobic nature of a family Christmas, she jokes. With a second crime novel already written and a TV series of The Hunting Party in the works, Foley has quickly become a master of the genre. Fans of her historical fiction also have something to cheer, as a novel set in Russia is due out later this year.
Both authors read enticing extracts from their novels, confirming that a northern setting is a winner with both authors and readers alike.