CHRIS’S latest book, a crime thriller set in the Isle of Man, has been published by Faber and Faber and was launched at a special event on Thursday evening at Nobles Pavilion.
Safe House is a fast paced story that begins with a crash involving TT rider Rob Hale. Rob wakes up in hospital to find people don’t believe his tale of a mysterious pillion passenger, now missing.
‘Safe House is an attempt to transplant a commercial thriller to the Isle of Man, with big intrigue and big mystery, but grounded in Manx reality,’ said Chris, best known for his Good Thief’s Guide series of books. ‘It’s about an ordinary guy caught up in extraordinary circumstances.’
Chris, who lives with wife Jo, a teacher, continued: ‘I’d always planned to write a novel based in the Isle of Man. I had the idea of the Good Thief’s novel so I pursued that but it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to write about the island. I thought it would be somewhere new to most readers and somewhere intriguing that I could write about. Ever since I’ve lived in the Isle of Man I’ve heard rumours about it being used as a safe haven for people involved in witness protection schemes. It didn’t concern me if it was true, but it planted a seed. At the same time I needed a hero, and heroes in crime fiction tend to be very strong characters, very formidable people who will put their lives at risk and put themselves on the line – so what better character for that than a rider who rides in the TT?’
Chris added: ‘The other reason I picked the Isle of Man is because it is such a varied terrain and it is such an unusual place in many ways. I wanted to get under the skin of the island. The book deals not only with the kind of locations tourists see but also the kind of places we experience as people who live in the island.’
A lot of the action is set in Arrasey Plantation. Said Chris: ‘I knew that I wanted to find a mysterious, isolated location for the action in the book to revolve around but I had an idea in my mind of a kind of shack in the middle of some woods. I really didn’t know if there would be anywhere like that in the island.’
It was Jo who took him to Arrasey and showed him an old forestry board cottage there. ‘It was just exactly what I was looking for and that was the moment I knew that the book was coming together and I had something to write about,’ he said.
Safe House is a departure from the lighter style of the Good Thief’s books (the fifth in the series, set in Berlin, will be published next year in the US by St Martin’s Press). ‘I wanted to do something darker and something a bit more suspenseful,’ said Chris, who is now working on a book based in Marseille about a kidnap negotiation gone wrong. ‘There’s still some humour in the book but without the same degree of humour as in the Good Thief.