Novel­list LISA CUTTS is a DC for Kent Po­lice and has spent a decade work­ing for their Se­ri­ous Crime Direc­torate, deal­ing with mur­ders and other ma­jor cases. Her third book, Mercy Killing, fol­lows DI Harry Pow­ell’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the death of a sex off

Crime Scene - - CASE NOTES - By AN­DRE PAINE


The first few days of a mur­der are manic and, de­pend­ing on the role al­lo­cated to me, I may fin­ish work af­ter 18 hours, get four hours’ sleep and then do it all again. In­ter­view­ing pris­on­ers is al­ways days of work with very late fin­ishes. The re­al­ity is 20 min­utes of heart-rac­ing, adrenalin-filled ac­tion, fol­lowed by weeks of pa­per­work.

Mostly, I work on mur­ders and rapes, al­though the depart­ment also deals with kid­naps, black­mail and large-scale, pro­tracted investigations. It can in­clude ar­rest­ing and in­ter­view­ing sus­pects, tak­ing wit­ness state­ments, trav­el­ling the county – or the coun­try – to make en­quiries and, of course, months of pa­per­work.

Many of my col­leagues have bought my books, some have even read them. I’ve had a great deal of sup­port from work, al­though I did have to go through the cor­rect chan­nels. Firstly, I needed to get sec­ondary em­ploy­ment clear­ance, some­thing all po­lice and civil­ian staff have to do for work in ad­di­tion to their job. Af­ter that was ap­proved, I ap­proached the le­gal depart­ment to check that what I was writ­ing wasn’t go­ing to be an is­sue and cause prob­lems for the po­lice.

Be­ing a part of a team that has sent some­one to prison for a lengthy sen­tence, hope­fully al­low­ing the vic­tim or their fam­ily to try to get some of their bro­ken lives back to­gether, is a very big high. The main chal­lenge is lack of staff. Of­fi­cers are leav­ing and not be­ing re­placed. Find­ing time to write is be­com­ing a chal­lenge, as work is busier and busier. I think that the time will come when I have to make a de­ci­sion about whether I can con­tinue to do both.


Stick­ing to ac­cu­rate po­lice pro­ce­dures is one of the main aims in my crime fic­tion. Mur­der is hor­ri­fy­ing and com­pelling enough, with­out mak­ing up how it’s in­ves­ti­gated. I avoid the de­tail of the amount of pa­per­work re­quired. I’m very aware how dull that would be.

A grip­ping story is what keeps the reader turn­ing the page, so it’s cru­cial that it’s as good as it can be. I don’t shy away from what I know about in­ves­ti­gat­ing mur­der. If some­thing sim­ply wouldn’t hap­pen, or if the mur­derer did some­thing that would make him or her easy to iden­tify, I have to change it. It does cause me enor­mous prob­lems when writ­ing. The ad­vances in DNA, mo­bile phones, elec­tronic foot­steps, au­to­matic num­ber plate read­ers, CCTV and the most im­por­tant one of all, help from the pub­lic, all play their part in iden­ti­fy­ing a killer.

The idea for Mercy Killing came about af­ter I spent a con­sid­er­able amount of time in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions of his­toric child abuse. Al­though the book is fic­tion and def­i­nitely not based on any­one from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it crossed my mind, on an al­most daily ba­sis, for three years, how the team and I would feel if we were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mur­der of a pae­dophile, rather than the crimes of one.

I also won­dered how the Se­nior In­ves­ti­gat­ing Officer would rally their staff, to show the ded­i­ca­tion re­quired to catch the killer. Harry Pow­ell moans, drinks, swears, backs his team and most im­por­tantly, he’s a very good De­tec­tive In­spec­tor. The moan­ing and drink­ing have def­i­nitely trans­ferred them­selves into my char­ac­ters.

I def­i­nitely use the po­lice pro­ce­dures, the ones I’m al­lowed to write about, any­way. I don’t write about ac­tual mur­ders I’ve worked on – my books are all works of fic­tion. One thing I of­ten do is use col­leagues’ anec­dotes, es­pe­cially the ones that have made me laugh. I do ask their per­mis­sion first, al­though no-one has yet re­fused.

Mercy Killing (Si­mon & Schus­ter) is out now.

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