The Motive – Claire McGowan on BLOOD TIDE

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Claire Maguire explains the inspiration for her latest Paula Maguire novel, BLOOD TIDE, for our new Crime Files blog piece, The Motive.

Posted on March 23, 2017 in Guest Author, The Motive
Tags: Author Content, Blood Tide, Claire McGowan, Inspiration, Locked Room Mystery, Paula Maguire

The idea for Blood Tide, the fifth in my Paula Maguire series, came because I wanted to send her out of town for a while. Most of her work takes place in her hometown of Ballyterrin, a fictional Irish border town that sees plenty of crime and chaos. I also wanted to see if I could write a crime novel where the police were effectively working in the past – where they couldn’t get back-up, or use their phones, and where even the power had gone off. This kind of situation arises quite often on the remote islands around Ireland and Scotland. So I sent her off to an island to investigate the disappearance of a young couple during a storm. The lighthouse they lived in is locked from the inside, and there’s blood in the kitchen. What happened to them?

Bone Island, where the book is set, is not a real place, but there are many similar ones you can visit. The Aran Islands, for example, are off the coast of Galway and everyone there can speak Irish. As part of my research, I went to Mull, off Scotland, then took another small ferry over to Iona, a strange and beautiful island. The Celts considered it to be a ‘thin place’, where heaven and earth are closer than usual. I was pleased to see that, as I’d guessed in the book, phone reception was very patchy, and that any swell on the sea at all could halt the ferry service completely. We travelled over on a calm and sunny day, especially for February in Scotland, and still only just got the last ferry of the day back.

The other strand to the story involves a kind of mass poisoning/delusion. There are many examples over the years of small communities suffering from ergot poisoning (a fungus that grows on barley and causes hallucinations), or even something called ‘shellfish amnesia’, where contaminated sea life causes cognitive issues and violence. I did think it was slightly far-fetched to write about the water supply becoming contaminated but, sadly since writing the novel, events in Flint, Michigan, where the entire city’s water is affected, have shown me it’s all too plausible.

Finally, I really liked the idea of setting a book on an island, where no one could get on or off. Not only did it put my characters in a lot of peril, as they couldn’t escape, but it meant there was a limited cast of suspects, and a limited number of explanations for what could have happened to the missing couple. It seemed a good way to ramp up the tension and introduce a lot of twists and turns. Plus there really were some terrible storms off the coast of Ireland in early 2014, so it all fitted perfectly. I hope you enjoy my ‘weird things happen on the island’ book!

Blood Tide Claire McGowan

BLOOD TIDE, the fifth Paula Maguire novel, is out now

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