Exclusive interview with author Kate Rhodes and a review of her latest Alice Quentin crime novel *** Three Stars
By Gabrielle Pantera
HOLLYWOOD CA, (Hollywood Daily Star) 2014/1/31 “The serial killer in A Killing Of Angels believes that all bankers are worthless, and the world would be a purer place without them,” says author Kate Rhodes. “Many people feel that bankers get paid a ridiculously high wage for the work they do, so I decided to let that idea spiral out of control. What if someone grew so angry about bankers’ crazy bonuses that started killing the city’s top financiers?”
This is the second book by Kate Rhodes featuring psychologist Dr. Alice Quentin, who grudgingly helps the police solve murders. Alice is fantastic at work, but her personal life is a mess. Rhodes uses the city of London as one of the characters. A few more twists and turns in the plot with some questions left unanswered might have added a bit more suspense. You don’t have to read the first book to read this one.
In A killing of Angels, police investigator Don Burns needs Quentin’s help with the a new case. Burns worked with Quentin to solve the mystery in Crossbones Yard. This time, a banker’s death looks like a suicide, but in his pocket is a picture of an angel and a handful of white feathers. There’s a killer loose in the financial district killing off people related to Angel Bank. Quentin doesn’t want to get involved, but owes Burns a favor. Quentin’s cold fish mother and her brother who’s always on drugs flit in and out of her life.
A Killing Of Angels is the second in Rhodes’ series of London-based crime novels featuring forensic psychologist Alice Quentin. “I was keen to set the book in a part of London that I knew intimately, to help me bring a palpable sense of atmosphere to the story,” says Rhodes. “The central idea came from the banking crisis which hit London in 2008, and still grumbles on today.”
Rhodes interviewed many successful bankers during her research for A Killing Of Angels. “They were helpful and surprisingly candid,” says Rhodes. “But, none of them would let me acknowledge them in my book. Banking continues to be a closed and secretive world, where honesty is often actively discouraged.”
“My writing career has followed quite an unusual trajectory, so a lot of weird and wonderful things have happened after each of my books,” says Rhodes. She first wrote two poetry collections. Then her husband dared her to try a crime novel. “I’ve always adored crime fiction, so it seemed like a great challenge,” says Rhodes. “For me the loveliest thing to happen is that I’ve been asked to write four more books in the Alice Quentin series, which was a marvelous confidence boost.”
“Some of my research is physical rather than intellectual,” says Rhodes. “I spend time walking the streets of London, before embarking on a new book. All of the locations in my novels are real ones, so I try to be as accurate as possible. It’s one of the most pleasurable parts of producing each story, because I love to walk, and London has always captivated me. If you choose the right streets, you can feel the surface of history peeling away, letting you gaze back through the centuries.”
Rhodes did much research into mental illnesses so her character will seem like a real psychologist. “The psychology department at Guy’s Hospital, where my character Alice Quentin works, have kindly allowed me to shadow them on three occasions,” says Rhodes. “Each time I’ve walked away with a sense of the demanding and hugely important work they do, and a burning idea for a new book.”
Most of the documents Rhodes consulted were daily newspapers. “At the time of writing A Killing Of Angels, scandal after scandal was breaking about bankers’ excessive spending and wild bonuses,” says Rhodes. “The press reported the almost unbearable strain some financiers were under, to achieve their targets. One restaurant in the centre of London has a very high terrace, overlooking the banking quarter, where five bankers committed suicide by jumping to their deaths over a period of two years. The media created a picture of a world where huge wealth often became a burden instead of a pleasure.”
“My most enjoyable prize was a Hawthornden Fellowship,” says Rhodes. “It allowed me to live in a Scottish castle for free for an entire month. Bliss! The castle was more than slightly spooky, but it was so remote that I could immerse myself in my writing every day without hearing a sound, apart from birdsong and wind whistling down the glen.”
A Killing of Angels has not been optioned for TV or film.
Rhodes books are published in in several different countries, so she has many editors. “The ones I work with most closely are Ruth Tross at Mulholland in the UK, and Hope Dellon at St Martins in the U.S.,” says Roye. “I’m very lucky that they are both very supportive and give me a very good balance of encouragement and constructive criticism. I recently completed the fourth book in my series, and so far there have been no arguments.”
The first editor to commission Rhodes’ series was Ruth Tross at Mulholland. “I had interest from several UK publishers, but Ruth sent me a wonderful letter, saying exactly what she admired about my writing and why she wanted to work with me,” says Rhodes. “I hate to quote the movie Jerry Maguire, but she definitely had me at hello. I was thrilled that such an experienced editor felt my writing was worth her attention and wandered round on a cloud for several days. The next editor to choose my work was Hope Dellon at St Martin’s, which was thrilling, because I’m a huge fan of some of her other authors, such as Louise Penny.”
Rhodes says her editorial process is simple. “First my agent reads the new manuscript then she sends it to my UK editor, who makes suggestions for improvements,” says Rhodes. “I work on it some more, then it’s copyedited and proofread, and it’s ready to go to press in the UK. There will be a second set of changes for U.S. publication, and then the book is translated into a variety of different languages, including Russian, German, Spanish and Portuguese.”
Teresa Chris is Rhodes’ agent. Chris has built the careers of many crime writers, including Louise Penny and Stephen Booth. “I spent a long time trying to work out which agent to approach,” says Rhodes. “I found out which agents represented the writers I admired, and discovered that Teresa had a great collection of authors. I bombarded her with letters and writing samples and was thrilled when she agreed to take me on.”
Rhodes first novel was Crossbones Yard, a story about sex workers being targeted by a serial killer. Rhodes has two crime books out and is completing writing her fourth. “I have just sent River Of Souls to my agent, and I’m having a few weeks break before launching into the fifth novel in my series,” says Rhodes. “I get twitchy on days when there’s no writing to do, so my spare time is being spent brushing up some short stories which will be published in anthologies this year. Short stories make a great change of pace after completing a novel.”
Rhodes lives in Cambridge, England, with her husband, Dave Pescod, a short story writer and filmmaker. She has three stepsons who are all musicians. She was born in Greenwich in south London.
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