As most of you will know, I love crime novels. Forensic Science, detective murder mysteries to be precise! Kathryn Fox is a new author on my favourite crime writer list. When I say ‘new’, she has already written six books, so essentially she’s not that ‘new’, but unlike Michael Connelly (my all time favourite author), who has written over twenty books, I’m still getting to know Kathryn – in a writing sense, her twists and turns and shock factors. I loved Cold Grave, so if you’re into crime books, you can put this one on your shopping list knowing it will deliver. I also have to add, what a brilliant surname for a crime writer; Fox by name, Foxy by nature!
My sixth novel, Cold Grave was inspired by a number of cases, including the highly publicized death of Australian Diane Brimble on a cruise ship. I began to wonder how families of people who died or went missing on a cruise ship dealt with the tragedy. Unlike a death or disappearance in a city, families are socially, physically and emotionally isolated in international waters on a cruise ship.
While developing the story, some disturbing reports came to light. There is an international victims of cruise crime association. The obvious question is why. On average, a person disappears from a cruise ship every two weeks. That doesn’t mean they die from natural causes. It means they disappear, never to be seen again. One very two weeks!
I began to ask how that could happen in what is the fastest growing sector in the tourist industry. Delving deeper, it seems there are complicated issues facing victims of crimes at sea. Cruise ships are registered in foreign countries, known as ‘flags of convenience’, and include staff from all around the world. Despite screening employees for criminal records, some countries don’t have computerised data bases, so background checks aren’t always as reassuring as passengers may assume.
Some reports suggest that a woman is twice as likely to be sexually assaulted on a cruise than on land, and prosecutions of offenders are exceptionally rare.
Given that cruise lines cannot possibly screen passengers, child and adult sex offenders have been known to target cruise ships. Combined with a party atmosphere, alcohol and recreational drug use, it’s no surprise that things can go very wrong.
As with any multi-billion dollar industry, there is enormous potential for corruption and cover-ups. This is something that really appealed to the crime writer in me.
With upwards of 5000 people on board, cruise ships today are more like floating cities. At sea, hundreds of staff serve food and drinks, but there may be only two or three security staff on board. In other words, there are no police or crime scene technicians in the event of a crime or disappearance.
Adding to that, cruises lend themselves to a collegiate atmosphere and people feel secure enough to let their guards down on holiday. They may accept drinks from strangers, let kids wander around unaccompanied, and even walk around alone late at night – things they may never do in a city or other holiday destination.
The sense of isolation of victims and families was something I really wanted to explore. Despite the massive size of the ship and open sea, it can suddenly become claustrophobic. In that sense, a cruise is the perfect setting for a thriller.
I hope I’ve done it justice.