Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m really excited to be taking part in the blog tour for Vicky Newham’s debut crime novel, ‘Turn A Blind Eye’. I’ve already reviewed the book in full here, so make sure you check that out. In this post, I’ll be giving you some information on the book and also sharing an exclusive guest post, written by Newham herself, with you! So, here goes…
A dead girl.
A wall of silence.
DI Maya Rahman is running out of time.
A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:
I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.
At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.
Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim.
About the Author
Vicky Newham’s debut novel, ‘Turn A Blind Eye’, was released on 5th April 2018 and is the first addition to the DI Maya Rahman series. Psychologist Vicky Newham grew up in West Sussex and taught in East London for many years, before moving to Kent. She is currently working on the next book in the DI Maya Rahman series.
Writing About Sensitive Topics.
Turn a Blind Eye is the first book in a new police procedural series, set in East London. The main character is DI Maya Rahman, who was born in Bangladesh and moved to the UK with her family when she was four. The characters and plot were inspired by the time I spent living and working in the area where the novel is set. Each book in the DI Rahman series has its own self-contained mystery. Backstory elements of Maya’s family life weave through the series because it’s relevant to who she is now and how she solves the crimes. As a whole, the series explores the psychology of violence, cultural dislocation and contemporary urban life.
In Turn a Blind Eye, Maya returns from her brother’s funeral in Bangladesh and is plunged into a high-profile murder investigation when a local headteacher is found dead on the first day of term. For Maya, the case is personal because it’s her old secondary school. Learning provided her with respite from her parents’ unhappy marriage so she feels loyal to the place that helped her. The police hope it’s an isolated case, especially since the community is still reeling from the suicide of one of the school’s pupils, a teenage girl, who hadn’t wanted to follow her family’s arrangements for her marriage. At the crime scene, the killer leaves a mysterious message, saying ‘I shall abstain from taking the ungiven’. As we learn more about Linda Gibson, the headteacher, and about Maya’s family background, lots of skeletons come tumbling out of the closet and the bones really begin to rattle. Throw in the regular elements of any crime novel – murder, violence and corpses – that’s quite a few sensitive topics. How, then, did I write about them?
Firstly, it took me a long time to decide whether to write the book at all. I wanted to be certain about my motivation for doing so. I began teaching in Stepney in 2002 and many of the ideas in Turn a Blind Eye have been going round in my head since then. I didn’t begin writing the story until I was doing my MA dissertation in 2014 and by then I’d left full-time teaching. It isn’t a spoiler to say that the key plot questions are who the killer is and why they are linking the murders with Buddhist precepts. But my motivation for writing the book was to explore some of the more psychological questions that I had. For example, are all cultural differences reconcilable? What motivates violence and murder, and are we all capable? Why do people respond differently to the same experience?
Although the book is fiction, some of the storylines and themes are things which people experience on a daily basis, and I wanted to portray these as accurately as possible. I wanted to research all aspects of the book thoroughly, and that included discussing its content and themes with my tutors, fact-checking and talking to as many Tower Hamlets residents as possible. I also consulted people I’ve kept in contact with from when I lived and worked in the area. I then went through similar discussion processes with my agent and editor.
Finally, it was important to me that I approached the topics and my characters’ lives sensitively and with empathy. Beliefs, feelings and practices exist for a reason and I wanted to understand those that differ from my own, not judge them. I also wanted to understand why myths and stereotypes have developed, and what truth there is in them. For example, it isn’t easy for immigrants and asylum seekers to learn English when provision, access, poverty, health problems, fear and prejudice create barriers. One of the reasons why I included classroom scenes, and scenes from Maya’s childhood, was so that readers can see for themselves how things can play out, and what people think and feel.
Happy reading 🙂