I recently visited an island of just ten residents, a very remote locale that instantly brought to mind Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.

With ten people living in close proximity, it would be hard to keep your life private. An argument with between husband and wife, a sick child, financial difficulties — it wouldn’t take long for neighbours to learn of these secrets. Worse, simple truths passed from one neighbour to another can morph into something completely different. I still remember the lesson of a message whispered from one student to another in a class of thirty. When the last student repeated the message aloud, it bore little resemblance to the original!

So, imagine with me a secret on this isolated island of ten people: a wife who wants to escape the island for life with a man she has met online. Imagine also, that her husband of nine years would never let her go. Does she decide to slip away by boat on a moonlit night? Or does she take the ultimate step of killing the man who stands between her and happiness?

Whatever she decides, she must keep her intentions secret, a challenge when you live in a tight group of ten people. And if she does decide on murder, she must carefully cast blame in another direction; she must use the secrets of this small community against them. The perfect Agatha Christie mystery!

But as much as I love a good Agatha Christie story, my writing is more influenced by another great mystery writer: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A grisly murder in a dark alleyway in London, a devious killer, and a suspect pool drawn from thousands — Doyle’s stories are complex, and focus on forensic evidence and criminal behaviour. These are the same elements of a good thriller with a clock ticking down to a deadly crime.

Clues and motive are paramount, but so are the people who fill the pages. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and the evil Professor Moriarty are just a few of the memorable characters Doyle has created. These richly drawn personalities pull us into the story and keep us there until the very end.

My style is unique, but the influence of authors like Doyle, Christie and P.D. James are part of my foundation, as are thriller writers Steve Berry, Daniel Silva, Frederick Forsyth and so many others. There is much to learn from these great writers and I continue to squeeze in time to read their novels. Stories that keep me reading long into the night become my textbooks, and so too do those that fail to connect with me. Both give insights into how to deliver a captivating read.

And I ask myself: what would these devious minds would come up with for my desperate wife on the isolated island? Every story would be different, but what stories they would be!

Published: Buried Under Books, July 26, 2018