Blinding debut novel launched by Cork author

The Rebel County is blessed with female crime writers, and Amy Cronin has just joined that club. She tells GRAINNE McGUINNESS about her new novel, and writing and turning 40 in lockdown
Blinding debut novel launched by Cork author

Author, Amy Cronin. Picture: Adrian O'Herlihy

CRIME fans are currently spoilt for choice if they want to read books written by Cork women, and next week sees a new addition - Blinding Lies, the debut novel from Amy Cronin.

Amy may be a new name, but she tells me this book and character have been a long time coming.

“For me, Blinding Lies began many years ago,” she says. 

“I wrote an opening chapter about a young woman, and when I found that again in late 2019 on an old laptop, I still loved the character and her story began to form in my head. I decided to take up her story again and have really enjoyed it.”

The protagonist of Blinding Lies is Anna Clarke.

“Anna is a young woman, working as a clerical officer in a Cork city Garda station, when she begins to work on the file of a recent murder,” Amy explains.

“The man killed is a member of one of the city’s biggest crime families, and the suspect is Anna’s childhood best friend, Kate.

“Although she and Kate lost touch many years ago, Anna feels compelled to help her. Kate fled the scene and is hiding in the city, being sought by both the gardaí and the dead man’s family.

“While working on the case file, Anna becomes aware of where Kate may be and sets out to help her old friend. She plans to convince Kate to turn herself in, knowing she’ll be safer off the city streets.

“But, of course, as it’s a thriller, things don’t quite go according to plan.”

Running through Blinding Lies is the enduring mystery surrounding the disappearance of Anna’s parents when she was a teenager. The book is the first of a trilogy around Anna’s story.

I suggest to Amy that it is ambitious to not only write a compelling crime plot in your first novel, but also set the stage for a deeper mystery. Did she know from the start that she would be writing more than one book on this character?

Blinding Lies by Amy Cronin
Blinding Lies by Amy Cronin

“Honestly, no. I don’t plot very deeply, I work with a general idea of where the story might take me,” she says. “I have a start, a middle and an end, and I love the surprises that come along the way when I’m writing.

“As Blinding Lies neared the end, I knew then that Anna’s story could not be wrapped up in just one book. Also, I grew to love the other characters as well, in particular Tom Gallagher. He’s the antagonist, the ‘bad guy’, but he was so much fun to write that I knew he would be explored more too.

“Brainstorming with my publisher, we felt a trilogy would give Anna’s story the platform it deserved.”

The decision to continue Anna’s story was also influenced by her own reading tastes.

“I love a series because, as the reader, I get to follow a familiar character and immerse myself in their world,” Amy says. “As a child I read every series I could get my hands on; The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, the Nancy Drew mysteries, Sweet Valley High, The Babysitter’s Club.

“I continue to do that, and the Rebus series by Ian Rankin is my favourite. Reading about a familiar character feels like safe territory when picking up a new book – no matter how dark the plot, a beloved character can lift the story into lighter territory.

“Needing to know how a familiar character resolves the tension in the plot gives that all-important page-turning quality to a book.”

Currently living in Oysterhaven with her husband and two children, Amy followed a winding road to her current occupation as a novelist.

After moving from arts to a business degree in UCC, followed by a Masters in Management, she spent time working in the UK before returning to Ireland and a role in the civil service. But the love of writing was always there.

“I’ve loved writing my whole life; it started with keeping a diary, then moved to short stories and (really terrible) poems, and I’m thrilled to bits to be able to write fiction now,” Amy says.

“I always thought I didn’t have time to write a book. There were so many things that take up so much time, and finishing a book never seemed possible.

“When I found the chapter that eventually became Blinding Lies, it was like a spark ignited. As Anna’s character developed, I found her fascinating, and knew this was a character I would care about. So finishing her story was easier; it was less about searching out time to write but making that time.

“I wrote at the kitchen table, in the car while the kids were at activities, late at night… anywhere and anytime I could. The story was ever-present in my mind.

“As I was writing Blinding Lies, Covid-19 arrived in Ireland, and before I knew it, we were in lockdown and I was homeschooling my children.

“Writing became very important to me then, to have something that helped me escape the daily news updates, even for just a few hours.

“I turned 40 as well during lockdown, and I was definitely hit with a sense that I owed it to myself to see if I could get a publishing contract.”

Cork is having a real moment with crime fiction written by women - from the phenomenal success of Catherine Ryan Howard to Catherine Kirwan, Michelle Dunne and now Amy.

“There’s definitely a surge in female crime writers from Cork, and long may it continue!” she says.

“I have met Catherine Kirwan and Michelle Dunne; we spoke on a crime writer’s panel with Tadhg Coakley and Kevin Doyle at Spike Island for the Cork Culture night in September, 2021.

“Both are lovely, supportive women, with books of their own out this year too.

“I’ve found the writers I’ve met to be very encouraging, which is really nice, because as a writer you work alone. It’s great to have a network of people who share the same experience.”

In Blinding Lies, readers get to walk the streets of Cork city with Anna and the other characters. I wondered what it was like to play around with the landscape of the city.

“I loved it,” Amy says. “In the beginning, I was unsure if I should use my home county as the setting for a crime thriller, but as I wrote, there was nowhere else it could be.

“It was great to picture places as I wrote – for example when Anna meets Myles at the fountain on the Grand Parade. There was great familiarity in that for me, and hopefully Cork readers will feel that too.

“I did take some poetic license though – for example, the garda station where Anna works is called the Lee Street station, which doesn’t exist of course, but is named after the River Lee.

“In certain instances, it felt right to create fictional places rather than use the real one, with real people working inside.”

Followers of local politics and planning may be interested to know Amy’s book also features a fully built and operational events centre - definitely the realm of fantasy!

Blinding Lies, by Amy Cronin, available February 1.

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