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The Crime Vault meets Martin Griffin

The Second Stranger packshot


Martin Griffin is an exciting voice in crime fiction and his debut thriller, The Second Stranger, is out now. Before turning his hand to writing, he had a variety of jobs, including being a deputy headteacher. We caught up with him to find out more about The Second Stranger and the inspiration behind the novel.

  1. Where did the inspiration for The Second Stranger come from?
    I was thinking about the trust we place in authority figures and how that trust is often misplaced. Faced with a barrage of information – and misinformation – in our everyday lives, we often use mental shortcuts to decide who we can believe in. Uniforms are one of those indicators. I began wondering, hypothetically, whether I could tell a real police officer from an imposter dressed as one, and the story possibilities struck me as fascinating. I thought a lot about du Maurier’s The Scapegoat and Tana French’s The Likeness; I love both, but where they focus on the perpetrator of an identity swap, I wanted to turn things around and tell a tale in which an isolated character is forced to make an impossible decision about an outsider’s identity. It was an immediately chilling prospect.
  2. Remie Yorke is a fascinating protagonist; how did she come to you?
    Remie came gradually, deepening each time I wrote about her. She’s a character informed by her complex family relationships; her younger brother ends up in prison after a delinquent adolescence and she has a background in psychology and experience of assisting the police as a result. She understands the processes of decision-making, cognitive bias, errors of judgement – and that makes her the perfect lens through which to view the events of the novel. She’s been such a compelling character to write; she’s guarded and pragmatic, she wants to help, but she also has an agenda of her own and incredible determination. Her voice emerged as I threw her into these challenging situations – she’s isolated and facing an almost impossible decision when a mysterious figure seeks shelter from a storm. She has to think on her feet under tremendous pressure. And, I soon discovered, she also has secrets of her own.
  3. You evoke the remote wilderness of the Scottish Highlands so brilliantly; how did you research the setting for this locked-room mystery?
    I grew up on the edge of a wild moorland – Black Hill in the Yorkshire Pennines – and I’ve always been keenly aware of the disorienting dangers of huge spaces; a fear of getting lost in boundless emptiness is in my DNA. So I knew isolation would be hugely important, as would the threat that nature itself would pose. I chose the Scottish Highlands partly because I’ve always been a huge fan of John Buchan’s The 39 Steps since I read it as a child. His evocation of the Scottish wilderness is superb and has stayed with me. In a way the landscape is the most important character in The Second Stranger; it’s certainly as dangerous as any one person that Remie encounters and it constantly limits her options – she’s trapped between the steep unstable snow of the fells on one side and the treacherous, frozen loch on the other.
  4. Throughout the novel, you increase the pressure. Every chapter leaves you wanting more. What books and films influenced the writing of The Second Stranger?
    Huge influences on me when I was writing The Second Stranger were Rosamund Lupton’s Three Hours for its single-location intensity; Sharon Bolton’s The Split for its sense of gathering threat; Will Dean’s Dark Pines for the slow unfolding of the mystery at its heart; and of course Scandi-noir classic The Bridge for its dark menace. I’m also a huge fan of Val McDermid’s Broken Ground; its carefully crafted pace and atmosphere inspired me. I was thinking of Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon as well, along with the classic movie version of Misery, and its almost unbearable tension, as I wrote.
  5. You have a second novel coming called The Last Visitor. Can you tell us any more about it?
    We’ll be travelling somewhere very different for my next single-location thriller The Last Visitor, but don’t let the sunshine fool you – the place will be just as perilous for the leading characters. I can promise there will be plenty of suspense, tension, twists and reversals too.

The Second Stranger is out in paperback on 7th December. Pre-order your copy here.

The Second Stranger packshot