To celebrate the release of the latest DCI Warren Jones novel, Out of Sight, we asked author Paul Gitsham to discuss the inspiration behind his novel.
The perils of keeping our true selves Out of Sight.
“…it never ceased to amaze him how the cruellest behaviour often came from the ones who were supposed to love you the most.”
This line encapsulates the essence of Out of Sight, the latest DCI Warren Jones novel, as he and his team try to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of a man found abandoned in a ditch. He’s naked, with no wallet or keys or phone; his fingerprints have been removed, and his teeth smashed in. Whoever left him there was keen for his identity to remain a mystery whilst they made good their escape.
I have long been interested in the way that we all lead two lives; the one that we present to the world and the secret one that we keep hidden from view. But what if a person’s two lives are so different – and so well separated – that when they are murdered, the police don’t know which of these existences led to them meeting their killer, and ultimately their fate?
What if the steps that the victim took to maintain their privacy help cover up the circumstances of their murder?
The Writing Process
This book started life as a short novella. I knew that there would be an unknown body in a ditch and that a hotel would feature. But as I delved into the reasons behind the man’s tragic demise, it soon became apparent that there was a story that needed a bigger canvas.
First of all, I needed to work out how, in our connected society, such a killing could go unnoticed. How could the trail of breadcrumbs we all leave behind us as we pass through the world be manipulated to obscure what really happened? These days, we all carry smartphones that track our every movement. Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras record where our car has been. The presentation of a warrant allows the police access to our financial records, detailing what we’ve bought, where we purchased it and when. Social media documents our thoughts, lives and friendships. How could a criminal subvert this, and how would my detectives overcome their subterfuge? I get a real buzz from the intellectual test presented by such a challenge.
Then there was the relationship between the victim and their killer. Would it be obvious – staring the team in the face all along? Or would it be someone different? And what about a motive? Why was he killed? With two parallel lives to investigate, which holds the clue that would uncover the truth of what really happened?
I stated previously that we all have a hidden life. As DI Tony Sutton remarks in an earlier novel, Forgive me Father: “I don’t think there’s a person who steps inside [the interview suite] who doesn’t lie. And that includes us.” The question is whether they are harmless fibs to spare embarrassment or carefully constructed falsehoods designed to conceal guilt.
In Out of Sight, DCI Warren Jones and his team are faced with competing motives, duplicitous characters and lies. Promising lines of inquiry turn out to be dead ends. Suspicious individuals are either innocent or hiding secrets that ultimately lead the team nowhere useful. The team make full use of all the resources at their disposal, but fundamentally it comes down to good old-fashioned policing and hard work.
And the catalyst for this tragic series of events? As it says on the cover of the book, “His biggest mistake was trusting someone he shouldn’t have…”
Out of Sight, the new DCI Warren Jones novel is out now.