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Jean Harrod is a former British diplomat who has spent much of her life working overseas in Embassies and High Commissions in Australia, Brus-sels, the Caribbean, China, East Berlin, Indonesia, Mauritius and Switzerland. Set in the Caribbean, ‘Deadly Deceit’ is her second diplomatic crime nov-el. The book is one of a series featuring diplomat Jess Turner and Australian DI Tom Sangster.
Below is a Q&A with this author.
What made you decide to use your career as a diplomat to write a crime series?
In the 1990s I was the British Consul in Indonesia, and responsible for the protection of British nationals in that country. I travelled around that archipelago of 33,000 islands trying to help Britons in trouble. I spent time with the police on murder investigations, forensics, prison visiting, sitting in trials, and identifying bodies from passport photos in the morgue. It was that experience that made me think that one day I would write a series of diplomatic crime thrillers. And that’s what I’m doing now.
Tell us why you wrote Deadly Deceit?
I write about all the countries I’ve lived and worked in. The first novel in my ‘diplomatic crime series’ – Deadly Diplomacy - was set in Australia. I put my heroine diplomat Jess Turner in Australia because my knowledge of that country was more current than Indonesia. I decided to set novel 2 – Deadly Deceit – in the Turks and Caicos Islands because my knowledge of that British Overseas Territory was also current, and the plot just wouldn’t go out of my head until I’d written it down.
Who has had the biggest influence on your writing?
As a child, I loved adventure books. Enid Blyton was my favourite author back then. The Famous Five series, and Mallory Towers, in particular. Later in my teens, I started reading Agatha Christie, and became hooked on the ‘whodunnit’. Of course I read all the classics too, but I would always come back to the crime thriller.
For you which comes first, the characters or the plot?
I had my heroine, diplomat Jess Turner, in my head since the 1990s when the idea first came to me to write a diplomatic crime series. For novel 1, Deadly Diplomacy, the two main characters (Jess Turner and DI Tom Sangster) came first, then the plot. So, for novel 2, Deadly Deceit, I already had my two main characters Jess and Tom (these two characters run through my series). The plot in the Turks and Caicos had been rattling around in my head for some time.
How do you keep pace with advancements in crime detection?
I had contacts in the Australian Police when I was writing Deadly Diplomacy to ask when writing something procedural. I have contacts in the UK Police too and ask them for advice too.
What is your typical writing day?
Most days, I start around 9am because I find it easier to write in the mornings. I work until 1pm when I stop for lunch. In the afternoon I usually do paperwork, answer readers’ emails, and some social media. The good thing about writing is that I don’t have to keep to this schedule, I can organize my day exactly how I want to.
What are the most important lesson learned in writing?
To never give up. Writing a novel is hard work, with lots of re-writing and editing to get to the final manuscript. Patience, self-discipline, and persistence is the only way to do it. Also, to write what you know and be sincere.
Name three writers who have inspired you the most
Agatha Christie because she is still the Queen of Crime Writing, in my view.
Charlotte Bronte because she was so brilliant at characterization and observing people.
Charles Dickens because he is a brilliant writer.
You have the next novel in your crime series coming out in 2017. How is that coming along?
Novel 3 is set in London and Shanghai, and goes back and forth in time. I spent several years working in China in the 1980s and will take readers back to that time in the book. I have worked out the plot and characters, and written several opening chapters. I will press on with it across the summer.
What’s your top tip for aspiring authors?
Just keep writing what you feel you want to write. Accept rejection and criticism as part of the learning curve, but never give up!
An entertaining and readable foray into a fascinating veiled world, this is the third novel in the Diplomatic Crime Series and can easily be read as a standalone. Set in a duel time frame, in the present Diplomat Jess Turner and DI Tom Sangster are in London for the visit of the Chinese Premier, while in the past Marianne Henderson finds herself in the firing line when she discovers the British Ambassador dead in a Shanghai hotel room. Author Jean Harrod was a British diplomat and has lived and worked in China, her voice rings with authenticity and she has the ability to take you into her world. Parallel lines run between Jess and Marianne creating tension and I sat with my thoughts, waiting, on alert. I worried for Jess and Marianne, and was reluctant to trust anyone! The ending of ‘Missing in Shanghai’ rather rushed towards me to wrap up proceedings, though I was pleased to see that the door is left open for a return.
A thought-provoking and gripping tale set in the Caribbean, between the pages lurk murder, voodoo, and people smuggling. This is the second in the ‘Diplomatic Crime Series’ after ‘Deadly Diplomacy’, and although it’s my first foray into this world, it certainly won’t be my last. Jean Harrod worked as a British Diplomat for years and travelled the globe, knowing this immediately adds authenticity to the background setting of the story. Diplomat Jess Turner and Australian DI Tom Sangster land on the beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands, then a murder hurls fear and suspicion in every direction. Jean Harrod writes with an authoritative hand, in the first few pages I was transported into the midst of a chokingly powerful scene. Every so often an unknown sinister voice rises from the page, encouraging the tension to multiply. ‘Deadly Deceit’ is a very readable and fascinating work of fiction, and can easily be read in one tension-filled sitting. A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... "Deadly Deceit put me straight in a boat, with a woman and baby, during a Caribbean storm. From then on, I just had to know 'what's-going-to-happen-next'. After a shocking and brutal start, the book is full of twists and turns as we follow British diplomat Jess, and her DI friend Tom, as they unravel a plot based on the topical issue of criminal gangs and illegal migrants. Jean Harrod brings all her diplomatic experience of such problems to bear on the tough political realities, as well as the personal tragedies in this heart-felt novel. A terrific read. " CE Roe, Editor, York Authors Coffee Shop
Diplomat Jess Turner is the British Consul in Canberra. When a British businesswoman is brutally murdered in a Queensland resort, Jess travels to Brisbane to liaise with the police, and help the victim's next of kin, her journalist sister, Susan. Queensland DI Tom Sangster is assigned the case; but the Federal Government is very interested in it too. The murder victim was negotiating a multi-billion dollar deal to supply LNG to China, and soon rumours of corruption swirl around the intelligence community. Was she taking Chinese bribes? Jess is taken aback by Susan's deep suspicion of the police. When Susan snatches her sister's diary and disappears - and two more high profile murders follow in quick succession - the race is on to find Susan and the diary before the killer does. Jess and Sangster, each with their own pieces of the puzzle, must work together to solve this case.