Cover Your Tracks by Claire Askew
‘What if I told you,’ he said, ‘that I believe my mother’s life to be in danger?’
Robertson Bennet returns to Edinburgh after a 25-year absence in search of his parents and his inheritance. But both have disappeared. A quick, routine police check should be enough – and Detective Inspector Helen Birch has enough on her plate trying to help her brother, Charlie, after an assault in prison. But all her instincts tell her not to let this case go. And so she digs.
George and Phamie Bennet were together for a long time. No one can ever really know the secrets kept between husband and wife. But as Birch slowly begins to unravel the truth, terrible crimes start to rise to the surface.
Claire Askew is the author of the DI Birch crime series, set in Edinburgh. Her debut novel, All The Hidden Truths, won the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress, and the 2019 Bloody Scotland Debut Crime Fiction Prize. The follow-up novel, What You Pay For, has just been released in paperback. The third DI Birch novel, Cover Your Tracks, is out now. Claire is also a poet and the author of the poetry collection This changes things. She lives in Edinburgh and loves tea, dogs and Joan Hickson’s Miss Marple.
Connect with Claire on Instagram at @One.night.stanzas
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey, please?
I wrote, performed and published poetry for ten years before I ever wrote a word of fiction. I imagined myself writing a novel and worried that I just wouldn’t have the attention span for that huge number of words. But then I got the idea for my debut, All The Hidden Truths, and it just wouldn’t leave me alone. I had to write it just to get it out of my head. And I was very lucky, in that someone suggested I enter the then-unfinished manuscript into the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. It was a bit of a mess, but I entered, and was gobsmacked when my messy little manuscript won! As a result of that prize win, I gained interest from agents and then eventually, the book went to auction, with four publishers interested. I’m still incredibly grateful for all those turns of events, because I know my journey to publication was definitely not the norm and I was very, very fortunate.
How do you decide who to dedicate your books too?
The inspiration from All The Hidden Truths grew from working with disenfranchised young men in the world of further education – I had to dedicate that book to those students, because working with them taught me so much about life. What You Pay For is in huge part about the relationship between my protagonist, DI Birch, and her little brother – a thing I couldn’t have written about without my own little brother, Nick. Basically, I like to dedicate the books to people who’ve had a stake in them being written – whether they realise it or not!
What was the inspiration behind All The Hidden Truths?
In All The Hidden Truths, DI Birch is in work mode: she’s swimming against the tide to try and “solve” an unsolveable case. She’s kind of a secondary character in that book, and I wanted the follow-up to focus more on her, her interior life and especially her moral compass. In What You Pay For, her little brother Charlie reappears having been missing, presumed dead, for fourteen years. When she finds out what he’s been up to all that time, she realises she’s in big trouble, and she has some major moral decisions to make.
Do you find it hard to let your characters go when you finish writing the book?
This is the great thing about writing a series: you don’t have to say goodbye!
What is one of your favourite reads?
Alexander Chee’s How To Write An Autobiographical Novel, which came out in the UK last year. It’s a collection of essays on everything from writing to growing roses to navigating prejudice to dealing with the election of Donald Trump. It’s basically a field guide to being human.
Who is your favourite author?
I always say I want to be Jennifer Egan when I grow up. I aspire to writing even one sentence as perfect as hers are.
Was there a point in your life that a book helped you get through, if so which one?
I read Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music many, many times as a teen: I loved all the Discworld novels but this was by far my favourite. It helped me escape high school and climb into a world where a weird, bookish and slightly spooky outcast like myself could become a superhero, of sorts, like Susan Sto Helit. It’s also just a very, very funny book. I still read it when times are hard.
Is there anyone that you would like to mention and thank for their support of your writing?
I’m eternally grateful to my dad – who was a technical writer, working in communications, for much of his career – for teaching me precision and care in writing. I’m eternally grateful to my mum for always feeding my passion for books: when I was small, she took me to the library as often as I wanted to go, which was a lot. And my partner, Dom, is invaluable to my writing process: we spend a lot of time spit-balling ideas around what DI Birch should do next, and it’s always a joy, as well as very useful.
If you had the power to give everyone in the world one book, what would it be and why?
Probably the Collected Poems of Mary Oliver. I think she has so much to teach us about care, attention and gratitude, especially at this strange moment in time.
What are you working on now?
I have a book in the pipeline called Novelista, which is subtitled Anyone can write a novel: yes, even you. It draws on the decade or more of creative writing teaching I’ve done, answering many of the questions I’m often asked about writing a novel, publishing a novel, and building a life as a writer.
Right now, I’m working on the fourth DI Birch novel. It’s currently titled At Close of Day, but may end up being called something else before I’m finished with it – I’m not totally sure yet! I’m loving writing it, because I have always wanted to write a novel that takes place over 24 hours, and this one does. It feels very challenging, in a good way.
Lastly, do you have any questions for your readers?
I’d hear what people like best about crime stories. Do you read them for the fast pace and tension? For the twists and red herrings? For the darkness? The moody settings? The complex characters? Tell me all!
In the name of full transparency, please be aware that this blog
contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for us (at no extra cost for you).