My first crime novel, The Three Killers (2019) attempts to play with some established detective tropes
It seemed unlikely that Peter Callaghan would ever be the object of mass media attention. But after the whistle-blower threatened to bring down the notorious crime boss Jerry Armstrong, and had a bounty placed on his head in return, everybody wanted him. Dubbed ‘the most famous man in England’ by the press, Callaghan had disappeared, gone without a trace.
At least, until he turned up dead in a small town on the coast, the victim of a seemingly impossible crime.
Police consultant Professor Charles Rycroft is sent to the scene of the crime to work with the local police force, and encounters his toughest puzzle yet. The victim was found in a locked room, and Rycroft doesn’t see how any of the three suspects could have possibly committed the murder.
And, to make matters harder, all of them have confessed.
I always wanted to write a crime novel, but it always seemed an impossible goal. I went to France for a year, and I took along a leather-bound notebook – every day, I would try to write at least two pages, assembling a short story collection with a vaguely supernatural bent. I did four of them, but I made it no further, because the early draft of ‘The Three Killers’ remained in mind – I knew there was potential to build on it.
The early draft is very similar in terms of narrative and resolution – I didn’t really make any substantial changes structure-wise, although I altered particular character motivations and expanded the role of crime boss Jerry Armstrong.
My style of mystery is heavily influenced by things like Agatha Christie, and TV shows like Monk, Murder, She Wrote and Columbo – I like puzzles above all else, and I think crime stories are more fun that way. I knew that I wanted my protagonist to be a private figure, not a police officer, and the idea of a uni professor – a mathematician with excellent puzzle-solving seemed a perfect fit.
I like this book as an opener, and it sows a number of seeds that I hope to pick up in later Ambrose books – I approached it as both an individual story and a book that would lay a lot of groundwork for the future and, in that sense, I’m very pleased with how it turned out.