I’m delighted to welcome Rachel Amphlett with a guest post and extract from her new book, released yesterday. Call To Arms is the fifth book in the Detective Kay Hunter crime thriller series. So without further ado, it’s over to Rachel….
How a character changes through a series
I’m often asked by readers if it’s possible to read the Kay Hunter books as standalones, or whether it’s best to start at the beginning with book one, Scared to Death.
In truth, each of the stories can be read separately and any order because the main crime is always solved, but I think to get a real sense of how Kay Hunter’s character has developed over five books, it is better to start at the beginning.
By the time we meet Kay in Call to Arms, her latest investigation, she’s become a probationary detective inspector, her previous trials and tribulations behind her. And yet, there are more challenges that face her, not least of which is the fact that she’s on her own – her mentor, DI Devon Sharp is under investigation when she returns to work after an enforced absence.
For those of you not familiar with the series, Devon Sharp has been Kay’s champion throughout the first four books – always there to stand up for her, lend a sympathetic ear, and watch her back when others would harm her. He’s been solid as a rock, but this time the tables are turned.
Forced into light duties while she recovers from a vicious attack, Kay seeks out an opportunity to both demonstrate to her superiors that she’s capable in her new role and to try and prove Sharp’s innocence once and for all.
As always, there’s a strong supporting cast to help her in her endeavours.
Her team comprises three detective constables and some uniformed officers, and all these characters have individual motivations that drive them. Whether that is to prove themselves on their first major incident investigation, or to be seen as an integral part of the team so that once the investigation is concluded they open up new career opportunities, it’s my responsibility to ensure that they all get the chance to shine and are as memorable as Kay herself.
This is really important for me, and although I can’t remember where I heard the advice or who said it, the fact remains that secondary characters in a story don’t know they are secondary characters. Every single one of them matters.
In Call to Arms, the team have to pull together to solve a cold case that’s a decade old and fit this around their day-to-day duties. Again, this was an important aspect of real-life policing that I wanted to capture – most detectives are juggling numerous cases on a daily basis, and I had to convey the frustrations my characters have when they can’t get the traction they need to solve the investigation.
So, how does this affect Kay’s character?
Well, during Call to Arms we see her maturing as a detective and as a person. She’s got more responsibility, more motivation, and a much more emotionally-charged murder investigation on her hands.
She’s also got a lot more to lose.
Jamie Ingram stalked across the darkened farmyard, shoved the crash helmet onto his head, and swung his leg over the motorbike. He sat for a moment, his heart racing, anger coursing through his veins. He realised he was grinding his teeth, and he forced his jaw to relax. He leaned forward, flexed his fingers over the handlebars, then started the engine and kicked the bike into gear.
It had been raining since four o’clock that afternoon, a steady downpour that soaked the landscape and had continued into the night. A weak full moon attempted to break through the clouds that tumbled overhead, then submitted to the next deluge. The Kentish countryside held a starkness to it, tree branches reaching up to the pitch black sky while the promise of an early morning frost clung to the air around him.
A chink of light appeared at one of the upper windows to the farmhouse, before the silhouette of a man emerged. Jamie remained still, glaring through the visor, his breathing ragged. As a boy, he had loved waking up to the sound of rain as it beat upon the roof of the house. The crops were dependent on the ebb and flow of the seasons, and despite the risk of flooding, he found the noise soothing. Tonight though, it seemed to heighten his frayed nerves instead.
Eventually, the figure retreated and the curtain at the window dropped back into place. Jamie blinked to regain his night vision. He turned the bike’s wheels in the mud that now coated his boots and pointed it towards the cattle grid separating the property from the lane.
The farm hadn’t been home to animals for nearly two decades, but the cattle grid served as a makeshift security measure – the rumble of tyres across its steel bars could be heard from within the farmhouse, giving its occupants ample time to see who was arriving.
He checked for oncoming traffic before accelerating into the road from habit rather than necessity. He didn’t expect to see anyone – it was the dead of night, after all, and the only people who used the road were the residents of the farmhouse and tenants from a couple of cottages further along.
The high banks and hedgerows either side of the lane sheltered him from the worst of the wind that tried to batter the motorcycle but did little to protect him from the fresh onslaught of rain that now streaked across the fields.
On any other night, he’d have resisted the urge to be out riding. The phone call had put paid to that. He growled under his breath and leaned the bike into the first bend. A cold chill crawled over his shoulders as fear began to overcome his anger.
It wasn’t meant to be like this.
Everything was out of control.
The phone conversation had begun with accusations and deteriorated from there. He had paced while he spoke, gesticulating with one hand as he tried to placate the person on the other end of the call. It was too dangerous. They had to stop. It couldn’t continue – not anymore. The caller was insistent; there was too much at stake, too many promises made.
He slowed the motorbike as he approached a T-junction, checked his mirrors, and took a moment to roll his shoulders and crick his neck. Tension clutched at his limbs, and he briefly closed his eyes. A wave of nausea seized him, cramping his stomach. He reached up and flipped the visor open, gulping in the fresh air, fighting the dizziness that clawed at the periphery of his vision. Rain pecked at his face, and he savoured the cold water that helped to soothe his burning cheeks.
He had berated the caller for making the promises in the first place. That hadn’t been the arrangement. They had always known they were on borrowed time, and he wasn’t prepared to take the risk.
Not now. He’d already lost so much.
Kay Hunter has survived a vicious attack at the hands of one of the country’s most evil serial killers. Returning to work after an enforced absence to recover, she discovers she wasn’t the only victim of that investigation.
DI Devon Sharp remains suspended from duties, and the team is in turmoil. Determined to prove herself once more and clear his name, Kay undertakes to solve a cold case that links Sharp to his accuser. But, as she gets closer to the truth, she realises her enquiries could do more harm than good.
Torn between protecting her mentor and finding out the truth, the consequences of Kay’s enquiries will reach far beyond her new role…