Alex Barclay’s latest crime novel is called Harm’s Reach. She explains why…
At the dark heart of every crime novel is a secret – a buried thing that throws together people who otherwise may never have met: the initiator of the secret, the keeper of it, the victim of it, and those whose job it is to unearth it.
Most of us will play all these roles in life on some level, major or minor, but in choosing them, we can be forced to make a moral call. Will keeping this secret cause harm now or in the future? Would it compromise my principals to keep it? Could it damage me? Will I be forced to lie about it to other people? Am I capable of doing that? Do I want to?
Everyone is hiding something in Harm’s Reach. Special Agent Ren Bryce and her team have to discover who and what, while struggling with secrets of their own.
“My reasoning would be that the reach of good men is often hindered. In contrast, I fear that harm’s reach has no bounds, and – far worse – invisible fingers.” from Harm’s Reach by Alex Barclay.
The quote above is from a letter that opens Harm’s Reach and sets the scene for a story about the damage caused by secrets kept over the course of a century. The letter was sent by a man of vast wealth and power to his brother, a priest, and we won’t discover the true subject of it until the end.
As the story unfolds, we see how both action and inaction can contribute to the damage caused throughout this time, and how, maybe, if someone had spoken up somewhere along the way, so much pain could have been avoided. A secret is like a bullet; small, compact, and powerful. It can be stored safely in a box, never to be used. If released, it can fly off harmlessly, striking nothing, or it can cause grievous wounds.
It has always fascinated me the lengths to which people will go to keep their secrets hidden, and to hide the secrets of others, especially when the potential for damage is huge. And it’s tragic how, with enough money, silence can be bought, and people can evade the law.
In Harm’s Reach, one secret leads to another, in the same way as one victim leads to the next. However, if the right person is on the case, with the ability to see the dark thread of decades of lies and manipulation, a hiding place can be thrown wide open. And that’s the place we all want to explore…
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