Female Leads in Crime by author Marnie Riches

Category: Author Post

Whilst reading Stieg Larsson’s books some years ago, what struck me was that Lisbeth Salander was an amazing heroine. Her character and backstory shone through the dense reportage-style prose and kept me reading voraciously. I hadn’t come across a female lead that had captured my imagination so completely in decades. Here was a truly rebellious spirit, with an utterly unusual and remarkable brain, who played the roles of victim, attacker and defending heroine all with great aplomb. She was a woman for all seasons and, above all, she had tremendous balls.

Off the back of the Millennium trilogy, I started to read Scandi-noir more widely, thinking this mesmerising little firebrand, Salander was perhaps symptomatic of the Scandinavian love of equality and progressive thinking. Strange, then, that I haven’t yet come across another heroine with equally impressive cojones in Scandi-noir fiction. Not in Nesbo’s books. Not in Camilla Lackberg’s stories. Not in Lars Kepler’s world. Not yet. But look at crime drama on TV, and there’s a completely different story…

Many moons ago, Lynda la Plante gave us DCI Jane Tennison in her series, Prime Suspect. The nation was smitten with this wine-swilling, tough-as-old boots-on-the-outside but vulnerable-as-hell-on-the-inside detective. It was perhaps the first time we had seen a strong, complex female lead in a crime series on TV, though we had had Thomas Harris’ Clarice Starling on the big screen.

TV crime dramas have come and gone since, but I am not aware of having been inspired, as a woman, by another female lead until ForbrydelsenThe Killing gave us Sarah Lund.

What a phenomenally fresh character Sarah Lund was, with her inability to connect emotionally with others and her drive to solve the crime, no matter what she might sacrifice personally to do so. She wore crap mohair jumpers. So, we all went out and bought crap mohair jumpers because we wanted to be just like Lund. Instead of making herself sexually available to Troels Hartmann, as was originally planned by Søren Sveistrup, actress Sofie Gråbøl insisted that Lund eschew romance like The Virgin Queen. She is quote as having said, “I am Clint Eastwood. He doesn’t have a girlfriend.” Well, though I like my heroines to be sexual beings, I think Lund’s sexual abstinence was an interesting departure from the norm.

But then… oh, my! Then, we got Saga Noren in Bron – The Bridge and she was even better!

Not only was Noren a bloody good detective, but she had sex with men when she felt like it, didn’t give a hoot about her terrible council estate hair, wore leather trousers, stripped off in the office not having showered first and drove a vintage Porsche 911 like a loon. Fabulous! She seemed to be on the autistic spectrum, which made her an interesting character, although I have it on authority from a friend with Asperger’s that the script-writers did not do a particularly accurate or nuanced portrayal of that condition. Nevertheless, it is never actually confirmed that Noren is an Aspie, and her often comic, off-hand manner, incredible focus and eye for detail make for a brilliant, rounded heroine, so perhaps we’ll let the script-writers off.

On the whole, the Scandinavians have done better at showcasing strong female leads in crime than we Brits and writers in the US have. In my opinion and the limited scope of my reading, of course.

So, onto George McKenzie. Given my admiration of psychologically complex women, when I created George, I took my own experiences of poverty and trauma, mixed them with a realistic dash of obsessive compulsive behaviour and placed on George’s shoulder a chip of shadow-casting proportions. I knew George had to have a big, abrasive personality, because women with quick, analytical minds who are not afraid to voice unpopular opinions are often viewed as such, where their male equivalents might be termed, “mavericks” or merely, “Alpha males”. I was sick of seeing tough women portrayed simply as bitches. George McKenzie is much more than that. She exercises enormous self-discipline in her professional arena but has no qualms about indulging herself recreationally in sex and drugs. It was important for me to write a female lead who was unapologetic, unafraid at times and petrified at others – a strong woman whom male readers might fancy and female readers might want to be.

Undoubtedly, George McKenzie has been inspired by her predecessors in literature and on TV. But she is essentially a departure from those introverted characters of Salander, Lund and Noren and the middle-class, middle-aged, white Jane Tennison – right for her time but who would fall short of our expectations of “kickass” nowadays. I hope George will prove to be a heroine who has readers coming back for more!

Marnie Riches is the author of the first six books of HarperCollins Children’s Time-Hunters series and now writes crime thrillers for adults. Her upcoming novel The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is out April 2nd.

Your Scott Mariani Mission

Category: News

To celebrate the publication of THE NEMESIS PROGRAM by our top ten Sunday Times bestselling author Scott Mariani we ran a competition to find the ultimate die hard Ben Hope fan.

We found him!

Meet Rich Wigley and read on to find out exactly why Scott Mariani’s Ben Hope series should be on your must-read list! 

I came across Scott Mariani by complete chance. As an aspiring writer myself, I was actually on a mission to find some new novels to help inspire my own work. It was a couple of years ago now and I was exploring the ibook app on my new iphone, scrolling through the ‘istore’ in search of a new adventure. I guess the first thing I look for in a novel is material that I can relate to. The fundamental things I look for in a book are action, great characters and the knack to make me believe I’m somewhere else – escapism at it’s very finest. Being a young lad, I can become quite distracted, so I needed a book that was going grab my full attention.

After some ‘scrolling’, I came across an ebook called ‘Passenger 13’. The first thing that captured my attention was the synopsis. It described the main character – an ex SAS soldier (Ben Hope) who embarks on a wild goose chase around the world, in an effort to unravel the mystery behind the suspicious death of his former army comrade in a plane crash. The book was fantastic, filled with twists, jam packed with action, intelligent crime solving, and provided amazing descriptions of locations I could only dream of visiting. I was mostly intrigued by this Ben Hope character and soon discovered there was an entire series that follows the development of the protagonist as an intelligent, yet troubled hero, written by the author Scott Mariani. I began reading all of the books in chronological order and have been hooked ever since.

Shortly after completing the series I decided to contact Scott himself, to tell him how much I enjoy his books. Scott was really grateful and was keen to get me to write a testimonial for his website, which now features on the ‘readers corner’ section of his dedicated site.

Importantly for myself, I wanted to find out how I could use his work as a catalyst to begin my own , I wanted to find out how Scott gets ideas on to shelves. I went to my local library and discovered a book, written by the man himself, called ‘How to write a thriller novel’ – Perfect! The book has proved to be incredibly helpful, providing me with much motivation. It also covered an insight into the publishing world, including important things to bear in mind when catering for a thriller audience, specifically.

I guess as a fan you have the assumed duty to lend the books on to people and spread the good word. About two years ago I had an interview for a sales role at a well-known magazine publisher. For the interview I was asked to prepare a ‘Presentation on one of my passions’. Usually I would have covered Football or Music, but I figured given the context of my interview it would be more fitting to create a short presentation on my favourite author, Scott Mariani. Needless to say, the interviewers were impressed and I was invited back for a second interview. One of the interviewers was that impressed, she even asked to borrow a copy of a Ben Hope book, for her son.

Having read all the books, I find all I can do is wait patiently for the next whilst Scott is grafting hard on the next Ben Hope plot, somewhere in the Welsh hills. In the meantime, I’ll continue to recommend his books to everybody I know. Because that’s what his biggest fan would do, right?

– Richard Wigley


Click here to get a never-before-seen extract of The Nemesis Program

Buy the book now

The Chase – Paul Finch

Category: Books

Are you looking for a freebie from a bestselling author?

Well, if you weren’t before, you are now!

Number one bestseller, Paul Finch, is giving you a treat this Easter. Alas, it’s not in chocolate form, but it does come in the guise of a FREE ebook. Not bad, eh?

You can get your hands on Paul’s terrifying short story The Chase now, plus, you’ll get an exclusive glimpse of Paul’s new novel, The Killing Club, before anyone else. Guaranteed to keep you entertained this Easter weekend.

Order your copy now!


The darkest things happen at night…

What happens when you witness a horrific crime? Do you stay and help? Or do you flee? And what do you do when the perpetrator sets their sights on you…?

Find out in this heart-stopping short read from #1 bestseller Paul Finch.