mystery · suspense · thriller

*CONTENT POST* Perfect Bones – A.J. Waines.

About the book; Is the killer on the loose…or standing right beside you?

When art student, Aiden Blake, witnesses a gruesome attack on a London towpath, the police need him to identify the assailant without delay. But there’s a problem: refusing to leave his canal boat and traumatised by the shock, Aiden is rendered mute by the horror of the event and can’t speak to anyone.

In a desperate bid to gain vital information before Aiden’s memories fade, The Met call in Clinical Psychologist and trauma expert, Dr Samantha Willerby, giving her only seven days to get a result. When Aiden finally starts to communicate through his art, however, the images he produces are not what anyone expects and before Sam can make sense of them, another murder takes place.

With her professional skills stretched to the limit and the clock ticking, Sam strives to track down a killer who is as clever as she is – someone who always manages to stay one step ahead.Is the killer on the loose…or standing right beside you?

When art student, Aiden Blake, witnesses a gruesome attack on a London towpath, the police need him to identify the assailant without delay. But there’s a problem: refusing to leave his canal boat and traumatised by the shock, Aiden is rendered mute by the horror of the event and can’t speak to anyone.

In a desperate bid to gain vital information before Aiden’s memories fade, The Met call in Clinical Psychologist and trauma expert, Dr Samantha Willerby, giving her only seven days to get a result. When Aiden finally starts to communicate through his art, however, the images he produces are not what anyone expects and before Sam can make sense of them, another murder takes place.

With her professional skills stretched to the limit and the clock ticking, Sam strives to track down a killer who is as clever as she is – someone who always manages to stay one step ahead.

How working in a Safe-House influenced my Writing;

When I was practising as a psychotherapist in London, (before I became a full-time author), I worked in a safe-house for ex-convicts from high-security institutions. I largely met young women aiming to re-integrate back into society after a period of time in prison. These women had been put away for arson, stabbings, suffocating and all manner of fatal attacks. They’d grown up with stabbings, shootings and muggings; they knew no other kind of life.

They all had mental health problems (hence serving a sentence in a psychiatric hospital as opposed to prison), often stemming from dysfunctional backgrounds. Most had a fragile personality-type, were easily led and got involved with criminal activity because their brothers/sister/mothers lived that life too. Often anti-establishment, they were seeking leadership, gang-culture, excitement, risk-taking. More often than not, however, they were simply looking for a sense of ‘family’ and belonging.

The location and confidentiality was very strict, as you can imagine. I was there to offer a listening ear for personal problems and fears of going back ‘outside’. One woman set fire to her room during the time I was working there and others self-harmed, as cooking knives and personal property was available as part of the rehabilitation process. Most residents were on antipsychotic medication or drugs for anxiety and depression.

Having written a book on self-esteem and run courses for women on that subject, my chief role was to offer support and tips for self-love, self-awareness and as many ways I could think of to help the women feel empowered without crime. Most of them knew the answers, but putting them into practice ‘out there’ was the hard part. Surprisingly, I invariably came away feeling more sad, than disturbed by my encounters.

My writing has certainly been influenced by my experiences with ex-convicts at the safe-house. I’m fascinated by the differences between law-abiding citizens and those who cross the line into serious crime. I write about killers and serial killers, but more often than not they aren’t thugs or callous maniacs. Since my experiences in the safe-house, I’m also inclined to cast women rather than men, as the culprits in my books, but they’re never ‘monsters’. The killers in my psychological thrillers harbour grudges, pain, hurt and suffering from their pasts which drives them towards extreme forms of self-preservation, revenge or retribution.

One of the techniques I used in the safe-house was art therapy. It’s great for people who find words difficult, who can’t express themselves well or for those who find it hard to talk to someone who is eyeballing them head on. When you focus on a drawing in front of you, it takes the pressure off ‘communicating’. It’s also good for people who hide behind words, the ones who can talk themselves out of a paper bag, but rarely let themselves really be seen!

In Perfect Bones, the sole witness to a gruesome attack – an artist living on a narrowboat – is rendered mute by the horror of the event and can’t speak to anyone. My gutsy protagonist, psychologist Samantha Willerby, uses art therapy an in attempt to coax details of the killer from him. She’s been given only seven days by The Met, but time runs out and another murder is committed…

Many years after my visits to the safe-house, I still wonder what happened to the women I met. Perhaps that’s why characters with fragile personalities seeking family, excitement, risk and belonging all feature in my stories, sometimes as the main characters, other times as the perpetrators. Also, readers say there’s an undercurrent of humanity in my stories. There’s very little violence and gore and far more about harrowing mind-games and dark, driven motives for the radical acts involved. I like to pose the question ‘how would you react in this situation?’ to my readers, just as, when I think of those women, I wonder how I would have turned out if I’d had their dysfunctional backgrounds, violent environment and deprivation to cope with.

In my trauma work as a therapist, I found drawing particularly useful for victims. Little did I know, at the time, that I’d be basing a whole mystery-thriller on it, one day!

Perfect Bones by AJ Waines is published by Bloodhound Books and was released on 8 November.

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