UNLUCKY FOR SOME (Lloyd and Hill #13)
My eighteenth novel, published by Macmillan 2004/Fawcett
February 13th: what seemed like Wilma Fenton’s lucky
night, when she scooped her biggest-ever win at bingo,
turned out to be the night she died at the hands of someone
lurking in the dimly-lit alleyway leading to her flat.
And what seems to be a lucky break – there was an
eyewitness to the whole incident – turns out to be
a complication, for the man who saw the murder committed
is Tony Baker, a well-known journalist and TV personality
who, almost twenty years ago, single-handedly tracked down
a serial killer who had eluded the police. Did Baker see
more than he claims? Does he want to beat the police to
the punch again?
And what seems like a minor complication
turns out to be the trigger for a deadly chain of events,
as the man
the media will come to call the Anonymous Assassin publicly
threatens to kill again and challenges Baker to catch him
before he does. In the full glare of the national media,
Bartonshire police mount a huge, force-wide hunt for the
killer, with Detective Chief Inspectors Lloyd and Hill
and their hastily constituted ‘small executive team’ spearheading
Faced with a series of apparently
motiveless killings and an increasingly hostile press,
Lloyd and Hill, still
learning to cope with the personal challenges of marriage,
an energetic two-year-old daughter, and a live-in mother-in-law,
are tackling their most difficult professional challenge
yet. There is no shortage of ‘little puzzles’,
and what with the psychological profiler, the amateur sleuth,
the keen trainee detective and Lloyd himself, no shortage
of theories to account for them.
By the time the final little puzzle
presents itself, and they are able at last to sort out
which of these events
is cause and which effect, a lot of people’s lives
will never be the same again.
Aren’t you tempting providence
with that title?
Yes, I know – look what happened
to Hostage to Fortune. But it is the thirteenth Lloyd
and Hill, and I wanted to
call it that before I ever knew what it was going to be
So how did the plot evolve?
The title did the trick. It’s the old bingo-calling
nickname for number thirteen, and I started playing around
with the other well-known bingo calls – legs eleven,
two fat ladies, one little duck and so on. And I wondered
if I could construct a plot round them. Or, to be more
specific, I wondered if I could use them to flesh out the
very bare bones of a plot that I already had. And that’s
what I did. In the end, I worked in the nickname for all
ninety numbers. If I couldn’t use them as part of
the plot, I put them in dialogue or narrative, or used
them as names for various business enterprises, etc. I
was left with a handful that I couldn’t place anywhere
that they would just blend in, but I thought of a way round
that, too. If you’re interested, click the link to
go to the list of British bingo calls. Looking at it before
you read the book won’t give the plot away, but you
might want to wait until you’ve read it. See how
many you can spot!
Were you pleased with it?
Yes, in the end I was, but there
were times when I didn’t
think I’d ever get it to work out. It remains to
be seen whether my readers are pleased with it. I hope
they are, but whatever their verdict, I will report on
it in due course.
OK – due course has been
and gone. So how was this one received?
Very well, by and large. It got some really good reviews
in the US papers and starred reviews in US literary journals,
but to the best of my knowledge there were no reviews at
all over here (not even from readers on Amazon UK), which
is unusual. But a lot of people wrote to me to say how
much they had enjoyed it, so that was good.
Not from the people who wrote to me. There was the odd
mention on Amazon that the perpetrator wasn’t that
difficult to spot, but I wasn’t particularly trying
to hide that from the reader. In fact, I gave very serious
thought to letting the reader in on who was doing it from
the start, because the puzzle in this case was not so much
whodunit as how the police were going to prove it. In the
end, however, I went for the traditional whodunit framework
because I felt that would be more acceptable.
There were one or two complaints from readers on Amazon
that the motive for the killings wasn’t strong enough.
I feel that I made it clear from early on that the motive
was simply to get away with it, that the killings were
entirely motiveless. Serial murder often is – who
knows how many people Harold Shipman murdered for no reason
at all other than that he could?
And there was a complaint that the police were falling
down on the job by not arriving at the truth sooner, which
I really can’t accept. The police don’t have
the reader’s advantage of knowing that the perpetrator
has to be a prominent character in the book – as
far as they are concerned, it could be anyone at all. The
perpetrator is on their list of suspects from the start,
and is arrested as soon as they have the evidence to warrant
that course of action. Even in fiction, the police can’t
arrest someone just because they think he or she is a murderer – they
do have to back up that belief with something that ties
them into a place and time. And yes, I am using ‘them’ in
its singular, non-gender-specific sense, for which I now
have the permission of the Oxford English Dictionary, so
One more thing – is Lloyd getting soft?
I’ve had one or two people concerned that Lloyd’s
acceptance of his mother-in-law and Judy’s promotion
over him indicates that he is no longer the Lloyd of old,
which is true to some extent. He has finally got what he
wants, with the added bonus of a toddler on whom he dotes,
and he has had years of Judy training him not to fly off
the handle at the least provocation, so yes, he is happy,
and he isn’t as ready to pick a fight as he was.
And he says the situation at home and at work doesn’t
bother him in the slightest. But he is still Lloyd, and
he still tells lies, so don’t believe everything