Up Close: Rachel Amphlett

Continuing the Proud Tradition of British Murder Mysteries

By Millie Naylor Hast

USA Today bestselling author Rachel Amphlett continues the proud tradition of British murder mysteries with her new Detective Mark Turpin series, NONE THE WISER, which debuts on March 9. Amphlett is the prolific author of the Detective Kay Hunter murder mysteries, the Dan Taylor and English Assassins espionage novels, and several standalones.

In NONE THE WISER, the horrible, ritualistic murder of a priest sends fear and shock through the bucolic countryside of the Vale of the White Horse, west of London. Detective Sergeant Mark Turpin and his new partner, Detective Constable Jan West, have little to go on. When a second priest dies, they realize they’re chasing a serial killer, and the truth is more twisted than they ever could have imagined.

For Amphlett, writing “was a natural progression from reading. I loved school assignments where we were provided a prompt and given carte blanche to write a story.” Later, working in film production, she watched “what was going on behind the scenes and saw how stories got chopped and changed about.”

She forged her own path to publication. After her debut thriller, White Gold, was rejected, she turned to indie publishing and hasn’t looked back. “I have traditional publishing contracts for foreign rights, so these days I’m known as a hybrid author.

Rachel Amphlett

“I love what I do and get twitchy fingers if I haven’t written anything for three days. I love learning—all the research I undertake for my writing and the news stories I absorb on a daily basis send a constant stream of ideas going around in my head.”

Amphlett claims she’s a longtime fan of murder mysteries. “I’ve always loved reading police procedurals—the first I ever read was an Ed McBain I found on my parents’ bookshelves as a teenager. I wanted to write a detective story for a long time, but it wasn’t until I wrote my standalone novel Look Closer that I gained the confidence to write one.”

Not long after Look Closer was published, the first scene in Scared to Death, Book One in the Detective Kay Hunter Series, came to her. Active and retired police officers were resources. “They fill my head with information that sparks new ideas.”

She also keeps her ears open for new research opportunities. “You never know who you might stumble across in passing. Last year I met a man who runs a cleaning business that specializes in murder scenes, and another who manages a corporate security business in the Middle East.”

Amphlett (right) with author Lee Child.

Amphlett’s books usually start when “the first scene won’t leave me alone. It’s like remembering a movie scene. I see the whole thing—the characters, the setting, what’s happening in the background. After that, the next questions are often, ‘Why?’ or ‘What if?’ and off I go.”

Amphlett combines plotting with organic story development. “I’ll start out with a basic ‘scaffolding’ as I call it—a few notes about the scenes in my head—and with police procedurals there are processes the detectives have to follow. Then I just follow my detectives. My favorite part of writing police procedurals is the witness interviews, because I never know what people are going to say.”

In NONE THE WISER, Turpin partners with Detective Constable Jan West as he begins a new job. They start on shaky ground. “After all, Mark is new to the area, and they haven’t gotten used to each other yet.”

Amphlett (left) with author Adrian McKinty

How did she create them? “I don’t analyze how I do it—I just write.”

The setting also is a character. Amphlett once lived in the Vale of the White Horse. “When the idea for NONE THE WISER popped into my head, I knew the Vale would be the setting—ancient burial sites, busy market towns, the horseracing industry, and wild places like the Ridgeway. So much for new story ideas.”

She envisions a larger role for West in the future. “I love Jan’s character and can’t wait to share more of the interaction between her and Mark and her family.”

Amphlett also believes a strong supporting cast is necessary in a series introduction. “I can’t wait to see how they grow over the course of new stories.”

The first three books in the series are written, so she’s currently “rediscovering old haunts and seeing what ideas crop up along the way for book four.”

What’s next? “I write several full-length books and short stories per year, and undertake to publish three novels as a minimum. That’s something I’ve done since 2015, and it’s essential to getting the ideas out of my head—I have a very busy mind!”

Clearly, Amphlett doesn’t rest on her laurels. The next Detective Kay Hunter novel, Turn to Dust, will be out in July 2020, and the second Detective Mark Turpin book, Her Final Hour, will be published in November 2020. “While all that’s going on, I’ll be writing the tenth book in the Kay Hunter series, eyeing up an idea for a new spy thriller that’s going around in my head, and writing short stories.”

We can’t wait to read them.

Millie Naylor Hast
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