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When I wrote Funeral Sites, I didn’t realize that I was writing a thriller. It was, I thought, a crime novel – my eighth – and I gave its heroine, Tamara Hoyland, many of the attributes that I wished I had. She was athletic, brave, self-sufficient and free. I was totally unathletic, had never needed courage but didn’t imagine I’d have much, and having been married since I was 21, had no experience of self sufficiency. Above all I was not free, but tied down by the demands of family life at a time when Women’s Lib was more aspiration than reality.

Lord Hardinge of Penshurst was an immensely influential crime fiction editor, formerly at Collins, but at this time he was at Macmillan. He had published my previous books and made an offer for this one, but he made no secret of the fact that he didn’t like it. “It’s too feminist for me”, he said.

What he did not say, was that it was an action thriller rather than a crime novel, something of which I was not really aware until some years later it was included in a list of  “top -notch thrillers” republished by Orenda Books – the only book by a woman on the list.

Funeral Sites was the first Tamara Hoyland book, and five more followed until (spoiler alert!), in Faith, Hope and Homicide, my heroine fell in love with a young medic and decided to get married and start a family. I didn’t (and don’t) think that the mother of young children should choose to put herself in harm’s way, so in the books that followed Tamara played no part, until her youngest child was out of the house and she felt entitled to confront danger again. She reappears in The Stroke of Death, originally published in 2016. By that time there had been so many thrillers featuring females that Tamara actually seems  perfectly conventional.

She may not be young any more, or as conventionally pretty as she once was; she may not be unusual in a world where every other thriller features a dynamic female, with more or (often)less plausibility. But she is still clever and brave; she still puts herself in harm’s way, and gets herself out of it again. She still displays the admirable attributes that her creator wishes she had herself   .

I like her. And I hope you will too.

Start reading Jessica’s Tamara Hoyland series with Funeral Sites HERE!

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