I'm absolutely delighted to share a guest post from one of my very favourite authors Mason Cross, although here he's appearing as his alter ego MJ Cross. His new book, the standalone crime thriller What She Saw Last Night, is one of my most anticipated books of the year and it's published this coming Thursday. Some of the major scenes in the book are set on The Caledonian Sleeper, and in today's guest piece we find out the inspiration behind that decision. But first, as usual, a little bit about the book.
No one will believe ... WHAT SHE SAW LAST NIGHT.
Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten hour journey through the night.
In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.
Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin ... but there's no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.
The police don't believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.
But deep down, she knows that isn't the truth.
What She Saw Last Night will be published by Orion on 18th April 2019. You can pre order it now from Waterstones and Amazon.
You can read an edited extract from the second chapter of What She Saw Last Night here.
And now I'm delighted to hand over to my guest MJ Cross, for today's post:
I’ve always loved reading and watching thrillers set on trains – from The 39 Steps, Murder on the Orient Express, From Russia With Love, right up to Girl on the Train, there’s something very appealing about a train-set mystery.
I had already dipped my toe in the Train Mystery subgenre with The Time to Kill, part of which takes place aboard the Empire Builder train from Seattle to Chicago, but when I read an article about the planned launch of the new Caledonian Sleeper train, I got the idea for a standalone mystery that opens aboard the train. It opens with a woman discovering a dead body, and realising a young child she saw last night is missing… except that all the evidence says there never was a child.
The Caledonian Sleeper is one of only two sleeper services in the UK, and it connects one of the world’s biggest cities to the sparsely populated and rural Scottish Highlands. We think of Britain as pretty small in comparison to America or mainland Europe, but if you go north and south, there’s a lot of ground to cover. I was sure somebody would have had the idea to set a book on this particular sleeper train before me, but was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t seem to have been done.
That juxtaposition between the bustle of London and the wide open spaces of the Highlands was a big appeal for me. I love both areas. I’m definitely a city guy at heart, so I’m always at home in London, but sometimes it’s nice to be the only person for miles around. The sheer scale of the Highlands, the beauty of the landscape, gives you such a fantastic canvas. It’s similar to why I write about America, that sense of enormous space and isolation.
I had always wanted to travel on a night train, and the book gave me a great excuse to take the trip a few times for research. The people at Caledonian Sleeper were really helpful, answering all of my obscure questions and even giving me a tour of one of the trains.
The old sleeper carriages that they’re phasing out date from the 1980s, which means there’s no wifi, no air conditioning, and very importantly, no onboard CCTV cameras. And, of course, the other bonus for a crime writer is when you get far enough north, you lose phone signal too.
I really enjoyed starting with a completely blank slate on this book, and particularly getting to create an entirely new hero. Jenny, the protagonist of What She Saw Last Night, is an interesting character, because she’s not an action hero, nor is she an unbalanced, unreliable narrator. She’s a normal person flung into an extraordinary situation, and has to come up with a way to deal with it.
So, there you go! A wee bit about the forthcoming What She Saw Last Night and how some of it came to be set in a train.
MJ Cross is a British novelist. Writing as Mason Cross his debut novel The Killing Season was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Book of the Year 2015. His second novel, The Samaritan, also featuring his inimitable lead character Carter Blake, was selected as a Richard & Judy Book Club pick. Mason has written a number of short stories, including A Living, which was shortlisted for the Quick Reads 'Get Britain Reading' Award and 'Expiry Date', published in Ellery Queen. He lives near Glasgow with his wife and three children.
Mason’s most recent Carter Blake novel, Presumed Dead, was longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize 2018, and is available to buy now.
To sign up for the Mason Cross Readers Club for updates and exclusive giveaways, go to www.masoncross.net/readers-club
Find out more at www.masoncross.net
You can find an edited extract from Chapter 2 here and a fab wee Q&A with Mason here. My review of What She Saw Last Night will be up on Thursday, publication day.
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See you all soon. x
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