The body of a young woman is found by a river outside Belfast, and Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride makes a heart-wrenching discovery at the scene, a discovery he chooses to hide even though it could cost him the investigation—and his career.
The victim was a loner but well-liked. Why would someone want to harm her? And is her murder connected to a rapist who’s stalking the local pubs? As Ryan untangles a web of deception and lies, his suspects die one by one, leading him to a dangerous family secret and a murderer who will stop at nothing to keep it. And still Ryan harbors a secret of his own …
J. Woollcott recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, A NICE PLACE TO DIE:
Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?
Setting. That might seem odd; after all, don’t most writers get an idea first—a story that needs to be written? Or perhaps they get a character into their heads? A perfect hero or a detestable villain? Then there are others like me who are drawn to a location, usually somewhere they know well and long to explore its potential as a background for murder and mayhem. Yes, you can research your book, look places up on a map, check the weather for that period, explore local history online, but there’s something undefinable in having been there. I write about Northern Ireland now because I remember the rain, the smell of the sea, the tang of coal, and the scent of woodsmoke in the air.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
Mysteries have always been my favorite. My mother loved “a good murder,” and I guess I do too. The careful unravelling of a crime, a puzzle to solve. Why would someone do that? How did they do it? I enjoy challenging the reader with false leads and red herrings. Surprising them. I also love writing good guys and bad guys, that eternal struggle, putting my hero in danger. Tempting him to break the rules to solve the case. It takes a certain kind of person to be a detective, and to me, that allows for a lot of interesting character building—I mean, who doesn’t love an angst-ridden hero? Think Vera and Detective Rebus, and don’t get me started on the Scandinavians.
Was there anything new you discovered or that surprised you as you wrote this book?
I never realized what an emotional roller coaster writing could be. The frustration you feel when you hit a blank wall and the surge of excitement that comes with a solution. That need to get to a computer to get it all down. How sometimes the story consumes you day and night. The characters, the location, the plot, they live inside you as if they were real.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
So many. Lou Berney for his fabulous prose. Kate Atkinson for her intricately plotted novels about difficult subjects. Stories she handles with sensitivity and humor. Mike Herron for Slow Horses—his inventiveness and characters. Ian Rankin and Denise Mina for their settings and grit. For Garnethill and Jack Rebus. Michael Connelly for Bosch, and John Sandford for the incredible quality and quantity of his writing.
J. Woollcott is a Canadian writer born in Northern Ireland. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers and BCAD, University of Ulster. Her first mystery, Abducted, was longlisted in the Canadian Arthur Ellis Awards in 2019. Her second book, A NICE PLACE TO DIE, won the Romance Writers of America Unpublished Mystery/Suspense Daphne du Maurier Award in 2019 in New York. A NICE PLACE TO DIE was also longlisted in the Arthur Ellis Awards for 2020 and shortlisted in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence in 2021. She is working on part two of the Ryan McBride Belfast Murder Series, Blood Relations, due out in August 2023.
She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Southwest Florida Writer’s Guild.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.