The Crime Readers' Association

Are you a saint or a sinner? asks Caroline England

24th May 2022

When it comes to my psychological suspense novels, I’m a counsellor, therapist and particularly a psychologist. How I love to excavate my characters’ innermost thoughts and feelings and find out who they really are behind the facade, why they are flawed, or even evil; why they lie, cheat, betray or commit a crime. Or why they fall in love with someone they shouldn’t…

Yet do I really limit my amateur psychology to my fictional cast? Well, I do confess to absorbing some people’s life stories like a sponge, but that’s because the old adage is right: truth is stranger than fiction, something I shockingly discovered when I decided to specialise in divorce law when I qualified as a solicitor in my mid twenties. Hearing tales of controlling behaviour, violence, dishonesty, hidden vices or sexual deviance in apparently normal people was a steep learning curve about the dark side of relationships and human frailty. But what about my analysis when it comes to me, the author? Do I turn the tables on myself? Is writing a therapy?

Experts say that successful creative writing is about language and craft rather than self-expression. I understand overly self-referential writing is a no-no in fiction, but don’t we all add something of ourselves or our history in our characters or stories? Can we experience some transformative healing processes, personal development or self-insight in putting words on a page? Even confess?

Perhaps I should quickly backtrack here, as my ‘domestic noir’ stories peer behind closed doors and explore dark secrets, complicated relationships, love affairs, guilt and the moral grey area. None more so that my next psychological suspense, out on the 16th June, which is most aptly called The Sinner.

So, what is this vicarage-set tingler about?

Every saint has a past

To the unsuspecting eye Dee Stephens has a perfect life as the vicar’s wife: a devoted marriage to her charismatic husband Reverend Vincent, an adoring congregation and a beautiful daughter.

Every sinner has a future

But beneath the surface, Dee is suffocating. Vincent is in control, and he knows her every sin. Desperate, Dee escapes into a heady affair with Cal, an old schoolmate.

Every confession has a price

But is Cal the saviour she thinks he is? What dark secrets does he harbour? And to what lengths will Vincent go to when he uncovers the truth?

Yes, it’s a twisty story about sins. But who is the saint and who is the sinner? And what, exactly, are the sins which have been committed? Please do buy a copy to find out!

Caroline’s short story ‘Blindsided’, published in Criminal Pursuits: Crime Through Time edited by Samantha Lee Howe is shortlisted for the Short Story Dagger 2022. You can find out more about Caroline and her books here.

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