When headmistress Abigail Kirby’s corpse is discovered in the woods, police are shocked to learn that her tongue was cut out while she lay dying. Then, shortly after a witness comes forward, he is blinded and murdered. With mangled dead bodies appearing at an alarmingly increasing rate, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is in a race against time to find the killer before he claims his next victim….
Read an excerpt:
Abigail Kirby lay on the table like a waxwork model, her face cleaned-up to reveal her square chin. Geraldine approached and forced herself to look at the victim’s open mouth: between even teeth the stump of her tongue looked surprisingly neat. Abigail Kirby stared back as though in silent protest at this scrutiny.
The pathologist looked up and Geraldine recognized the tall dark-haired medical examiner who had examined the body in the wood. ‘Hello again Inspector. You’ll forgive me if I don’t shake hands.’
Geraldine glanced down at his bloody gloves.
Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English. For many years a secondary school English teacher, she is a creative writing tutor for adults. She is married, has two daughters, and lives in North West London. Her first novel, Cut Short, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award in 2010. This was followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and Fatal Act, in the Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel series. Cold Sacrifice is the first title in a spin off series featuring Geraldine Steel’s sergeant, Ian Peterson.
– What makes a great female heroine as a detective?
The genre of crime fiction has gone through many changes. Writing in the nineteenth century, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the most popular fictional detective ever. In those days the streets of London were very dangerous. The police force was in its infancy, and law abiding citizens lived in terror of violent robbers. The reading public loved the idea of a detective who always tracked down the culprit. Catching the public’s imagination, Sherlock Holmes emerged as a precursor of Superman as much as he heralded the arrival of the modern detective.
Since then the fictional detective has gone through several changes. Nowadays the protagonist is usually a police detective. The police have so many forensic and technological resources at their disposal, a private investigator becomes increasingly unlikely. The genre has come a long way since Sherlock Holmes’ magnifying glass and scientific experiments. The detective has changed too. No longer a superhero, he or she has included the vulnerable flawed protagonist, and even the policeman who is really a villain. With over thirty per cent of the police officers in the UK now women, the female private sleuth like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and Jessica Fletcher in the US, have given way to professional female detectives. So what remains for a new author to create in the twenty first century?
In recent years we have seen the emergence of many strong female detectives. It’s been exciting to watch my own creation, Geraldine Steel, joining their ranks. When I started writing, I didn’t expect anyone else would ever read my first manuscript, let alone publish it as a book. I certainly didn’t anticipate it becoming the first in a long running, internationally bestselling series. Happily writing my story, I never set out to create a ‘great female heroine’ as my detective, but a large part of the success of my series seems to be due to her popularity. A Great Crime Sleuth on Love Reading, she has been very well received by reviewers, and many readers contact me wanting to know more about her. I’m not sure how to account for this.
Part of Geraldine Steel’s appeal is that she is a character with whom readers can identify. She is driven by her passion for justice, and totally focused on her work. An intelligent detective with almost infallible instincts in her work, she could be a descendent of Sherlock Holmes. But she is also a single woman who would ideally like to be in a relationship, like so many people. She faces issues and challenges in her own family, lives by herself, meets up with friends from time to time, and goes out with men, just like other women. The Miami Examiner describes Geraldine Steel as ‘one of the most interesting detectives of all time’ and a reader has just posted on amazon, ‘you feel you know Geraldine and would like to go for a plnt with her or chat her up and take her out’.
So a part of what makes a ‘great’ modern heroine is perhaps a combination of the extraordinary to which we all aspire, and the ordinary with which we can identify.