The Story behind the Story – In His Shadow

Welcome to Readerly Ramblings for May

Whether you’re new to my psychological thrillers, or whether you’ve been here for a while, it’s great to have you here.  This blog post is also available as a video on my YouTube channel.

Are you looking for a thriller book you can’t put down?  Let me introduce In His Shadow.

“I’m not sure I believe a word that’s leaving his mouth. After all, I rang the police station. They’d have told me if they had him in custody. Besides, he could have rung me.  He would have been allowed to make one phone call.”

Nicola (In His Shadow)

             Cover Credit: Darran Holmes

The Idea

It’s only in the last few years that I’ve become familiar with the term ‘Gaslighting.’ And watched the film that made it famous.  As an author who explores darkness that can exist within what should be happy and safe places, this more subtle kind of domestic abuse intrigued me.  So I set out to write something that was purely about the psychology – perhaps I would even write a story where no one died??? (Erm, no – that didn’t quite work out…)

The thing I really wanted to explore was the idea that this kind of abuse can happen to anyone.  Any gender, any age, any background.  Therefore, I made my main character Nicola a successful career woman of means.  Though like any victim of gaslighting, she had exploitable vulnerabilities – enter Hugh...

Constructing a Page Turner!

Now I’ve got to my eighth domestic thriller, I’ve honed my process of writing – I go through five drafts of writing, the first one taking two months and the subsequent drafts taking less time.  Then at the end of five months, the novel is ready to go to my first reader, (aka my husband Michael.)

After a lot of time writing at home, it was great to get out and about again, which always breathes new life into my work. Here I am, in a coffee shop with my trusty MacBook.

As always, I’d got to know my characters in lots of detail before I started to write.  What surprised me was just how nasty my secondary character Hugh became.  It was all of his own volition – I couldn’t stop him! And Nicola sunk into that nastiness.  Lots of the readers who have read In His Shadow have reported wanting to shout at Nicola for being so gullible and weak. I felt that way whilst writing her too!

This is the most exciting aspect of being a writer. My characters really do walk their own paths.  What I do as their creator is regularly pose ‘what ifs’ at them, and this creates the twists, turns and unplanned deaths!


Am I piquing your curiosity yet?  Maybe sharing some of the research that was necessary will…

How long does a body take to decompose?

How many sleeping tablets would be needed to cause extreme drowsiness but nothing more?

Do assets automatically go to the spouse after marriage?

Can someone be trapped in a car from the inside with the engine running?

Does a body become heavier to move after death?

When can a marriage be annulled?

There were many, many more – I LOVE the research side of being a writer. I won’t tell you any more though – I don’t want to give the story away.  Instead, I’ll give you the prologue.


It takes between four and ten days after death for a body to reach putrefaction. In a cool cellar, I would expect things to be doing their worst towards the latter end of that spectrum. Today is day eight, so hopefully my calculations are accurate.

The odour of death assaults me as soon as I step into the hallway.  I reach forward for the light, which blows no sooner than I have touched the switch.  No!  The fuse box is in the cellar.  I should have done this before it got dark, but I’ve been putting it off all day.

I edge through the kitchen, burying my nose and mouth into the neckline of my jumper. The smell is like nothing I’ve ever encountered – bad eggs, curdled milk, sewage, and decaying meat all rolled into one.  As I reach the cellar door, I pause, trying to get some breath into my lungs without my senses connecting to my inhalations. 

The walls between this house and the terrace it backs onto are so thin, they might as well be made from papier mâché. Once a shop downstairs and a large residential dwelling upstairs, it seems the developer took the cheapest option and built something barely stronger than a stud wall between the two resulting homes.

I listen for signs of life from the house behind.  There shouldn’t be any, but a slim chance exists that the last person I would want to run into could turn up there.

Nothing. Only the gasps of my own breath.  Beads of sweat soak the skin beneath my jumper.  Instinctively, I release my chin from it, inadvertently succumbing to the inevitable stench that now has its chance to launch its attack, causing my stomach to lurch and my mouth to fill with saliva.  I swallow, hard. Although, I could get away with throwing up now, unlike a week or so ago. In fact, it could be viewed as an expected reaction.

I reach out for the door handle and slowly wrap my fingers around it, allowing the chill of the metal to cool my sweating palm.  If only I could leave things as they are.  But there’s no way.  I’ll have to deal with this. Before long, passers-by will be able to smell what I can in here, as they walk along the street outside. I don’t know how long I stand, rooted to the spot, steeling myself as I sway through indecision – do I throw the cellar door open, or edge it ajar an inch at a time?

Before I’ve even got it a quarter of the way open, a swarm of plump bluebottles fly into my face. I jump back, yelling, spitting them out and swiping at them. There’s no way I can go down there.  No chance. There’s only one course of action I can take. The one we agreed on.

To get your copy of In His Shadow, click here.

"My goodness what a blood boiling read. Right from the beginning I detested one character and got frustrated by another.... I knew I was in for one of those thriller books you can’t put down. This book has menace and manipulation written into its core. Love is blind....isn't it just? Poor Nicola, who on the whole seemed like an intelligent lady but after a traumatic twelve months she was distraught. Losing her mother, her father and her long term live-in partner can do that to you. Lonely and very vulnerable, she gets swept off her feet in a whirlwind romance. Just the tonic she needed...or so she thought.
I loved this book! I was shouting at both characters for different reasons! When you can see what is happening and can't do anything to help it drives you crazy!
A brilliantly written and very addictive read. I need to let my nails grow back....eek!
Very much recommended."

Thanks to Diane who left this review on Amazon.  If you’ve read In His Shadow yet, I’d be so grateful if you could also leave a review for me and here's the link to do this.

I’ve also got a Yorkshire-themed reader goodie bag up for grabs – if you’d like to be entered into the draw which I’ll do on 31st May, click here:

What I am Reading:

The Girl she was Before by Jess Kitching.  This is a debut thriller, and one of those thriller books you can’t put down. The author’s a fellow Yorkshirewoman, though she’s now living in Oz.  The story has pulled me right in and the main character became someone I quickly cared about.  The book certainly explores the very worst of human nature.

What I am Writing:

Frenemy.  I’ve loved writing this book – oh my word, wait until you meet Donna!  Frenemy is available for pre-order and I’m delighted to let you be one of the first to see the cover…

What I am Editing:

Emergence – it’s nearly there!  The final book in The Dark Water Series is now at the final proof read stage, it will go to my Advance Reader Team at the end of the month and I can’t wait…

Quote of the Month:

Thank you for coming along to my blog, and for your interest in my books.  Without readers, an author is nothing and I’m grateful to each one of you who supports me. You’d make me even happier if you did one of the following…

  1. Join my ‘keep in touch’ list! I’ll send you a free novella and will keep in touch with you about special offers and new releases more directly.

  1. Buy me a coffee. If you love my books and would like to add extra fuel to my creativity, visit  For everyone who buys me a coffee in 2022, I’ll send you a free eBook of a collection of short stories I’m currently working on.

Happy reading and I’ll be back next month.  Bye for now!

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