THE MACHAIR CROW’s heroine is called Helen Riley. She’s a feisty private investigator based in Newcastle upon Tyne. She’s been trained as an SAS undercover surveillance officer with the army’s special forces. After she left the forces she worked as a police detective in Newcastle before turning private.
I was inspired to write THE MACHAIR CROW after reading Lee Child’s novel ‘Nothing to Lose.’ It was the idea of the police being in the pocket of an evil secret organization and then moving Jack Reacher out of town in order to stop him asking questions. That’s what got me started in creating Helen Riley’s character. Then I wanted to throw into the mix some of the characteristics of Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. You’ll see shades of that mixture of characters in Helen Riley – someone who refuses to take ‘No’ for an answer. Helen Riley gets the most coverage as the heroine.
Helen Riley’s character drew on the autobiography of Jackie George which was titled: ‘SHE WHO DARED.’ Jackie was the first woman in the SAS and she worked on covert surveillance in Northern Ireland. The next step for me in developing her character was to ask, ‘what if she (Helen Riley) left the SAS and worked as a PI?’
Riley lives alone in a high rise apartment ovelooking Newcastle’s Town Moor. She doesn’t drink because she’s seen what happens when veterans use alcohol to de-stress. She cycles instead. Long pounding rides along the Northumberland back roads towards Stamfordham, Corrbridge and Hexham.
At the moment, Riley is recently divorced and has received an offer of marriage, which she is seriously considering (once her current adventure is concluded). Her father lives in Darras Hall. He is disabled due to a rocket attack on his garrison when he was stationed in Northern Ireleand, when Riley was fourteen. Her Scandanavian mother died in the attack. Riley has just discovered that her father is being treated for prostate cancer; news that her father had kept from her.
She enjoys working at AJ Investigations but her boss Andy has just proposed a re-structure that would make all the AJI staff self-employed. He thinks Riley is too much of a liabiity for the comany.
Despite the hiatus in her personal life, she is on an even keel. That was until the double-tap that just missed her while she was driving to work.
Riley doesn’t do demure and compliant. Her character is based on autobiographies of real men and women in the special forces. She’s unusual and unique but she’s not superhuman.