Delighted to welcome Ruth Dugdall to the blog today to celebrate the launch of her new book, The Things You Didn’t See. It’s a tense psychological thriller, a novel about families and love. It is about the nature of guilt and innocence. It is about the secrets we keep, especially from ourselves.
But more about the book later. First Ruth will be telling us a little about sleepwalking, synesthesia and other stories.
Over to Ruth…
When my mum was a girl she would inwardly groan if any relative ever bought her a book. As an adult the only ones she ever opened were cookbooks, and yet she is a natural storyteller. She likes dark tales, and she likes to tell them again and again. And she’s good at it – I haven’t watched Coronation Street in years but I know exactly what’s happening! I grew up with Mum’s stories, and would ask for specific ones the way you might ask for a favourite food or film, enjoying the familiarity of it.
One of my favourite stories was about my great Uncle George, who died before I was born. He was a poultry farmer, living in rural Lincolnshire. He was also a sleepwalker. His sleepwalking was well known locally, especially after the time he jumped through an upper floor window thinking he was still jumping fences on his horse.
One day, so the story goes, George had been culling chickens for market. Wringing their necks and tossing them into a steaming pile of feathers. That night his wife awoke in a panic to find hands tight around her neck. Someone was trying to kill her. She fought and screamed and, luckily, George woke up. He had been dreaming about those chickens.
Years later, I learned about people who had committed grave acts in their sleep, including murder. Some were terribly sad – one boy had killed his father, whilst dreaming he was defending the home from a burglar. Other cases seemed less believable, like the murderer who drove many miles to his victim’s home whilst apparently asleep.
Non-insane Automatism is the legal defence used when someone kills whilst asleep, meaning that they aren’t culpable because they were unconscious. When this defence is used, which isn’t often, the stats show that a jury will believe the suspect only half the time, the other half they convict. It is this defence that Hector Hawke gives in The Things You Didn’t See, after his wife Maya Hawke is discovered at the bottom of the stairs, shot in the head.
The second trait featured in the book is synesthesia, a neurological condition in which wiring in the brain works differently so the senses are blended in an unexpected way. Some synesthetic taste words, others see sounds as colour. There is an argument that we all have a little synaesthesia; many of us listen to music and experience emotions, or associate a smell with a place, or dislike certain words because of how they make us feel. It is a diverse trait, and studies have recently discovered a genetic link, but there is still much more to understand about it.
Holly Redwood is the paramedic who arrives at the farm after Maya’s shooting has been called in. She has a form of synesthesia, known as Mirror Touch, which means that she can feel what others feel. If she sees someone get slapped, her cheek stings. If she sees a couple kissing, she experiences that too.
When Holly sees Maya, who is unconscious and in a critical condition, she can feel her pain. But she can also feel emotions, and within the house are Maya’s husband and daughter. As suspicion builds about what really happened to Maya, Holly must work out what her overloaded senses are telling her, and establish if they can be trusted. For someone wishing to solve a crime, synesthsia can be a talent, so long as they know how to interpret their feelings.
The title, The Things You Didn’t See, refers to both traits: sleepwalkers don’t see clearly, even though they move with their eyes open. Synesthesics sense things beyond their vision. The crime at the heart of the book can only be solved if these two things are addressed, and Holly and Cassandra must work together to do this.
I don’t know if my mum will read my book, but I’m grateful to her for sharing her stories. And thank you for letting me share mine with you.
Thanks Ruth. The Things You Didn’t See is published on 24th April 2018 by Thomas & Mercer.
Her instincts are telling her something isn’t right…
On a chilly morning in rural Suffolk, Cassandra Hawke is woken by a gunshot. Her mother is clinging on to her life, the weapon still lying nearby. Everyone thinks it’s attempted suicide—but none of it makes any sense to Cass. She’s certain there’s more to it than meets the eye.
With her husband and father telling her she’s paranoid, Cass finds an unlikely ally in student paramedic Holly. Like Cass, she believes something is wrong, and together they try to uncover the truth. But is there more to Holly’s interest than she’s letting on?
With her family and loved ones at risk, Cass must ask herself: is she ready to hear the truth, and can she deal with the consequences?
Ruth Dugdall studied English at university and then took an MA is Social Work. She worked in the Criminal Justice System as a social worker then as a probation officer. Her novels are informed by her experience, tackling human relationships at their most dysfunctional. She lives in California with her family.