A fish-out-of-water sleuth

A fish-out-of-water sleuth

Posted on December 8 by Nick Wilkshire
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I had written a few mysteries with a cop or a P.I. as protagonist, and I was at a book signing with another author when a reader came up to us and asked: why is the main character in a mystery always a detective or a private eye?

It's a great question, and my fellow author answered it perfectly: you need to have a plausible reason for your main character to be confronted with a murder or mystery to resolve. This is especially true in the case of a series, where readers may forgive you for creating one accidental encounter between a “civilian” and a dead body, but not two or more.

All this got me thinking of a concept for a series with a unique protagonist. I've always loved travel and enjoy reading books set in locations that intrigue me, and I had some first-hand experience of the transitory and somewhat strange world of embassy life.

Enter Charlie Hillier, a consular officer who not only regularly finds himself confronted with situations that lend themselves perfectly to the mystery genre (people in trouble for one reason or another) but does so in settings that are foreign, in every sense of the word. The fish out of water concept is one that I really enjoy exploiting, as Charlie finds himself faced not only with the usual challenges of trying to unravel a mystery, but having to do so in the context of the cultural, legal, and bureaucratic peculiarities of each of his foreign postings. And the more exotic or foreign the local environment, the greater the challenge.

The fact that Charlie is thrust into the consular field (you'll have to read the Prologue to Escape to Havana to know what I mean) as neither a skilled diplomat nor professional sleuth just makes the challenge all the greater, and presents even more opportunities to throw obstacles in Charlie's path.

Finally, there's the element of travel and adventure that comes with each book in the series being set in a different location – call it literary tourism. I knew as soon as I started writing Escape to Havana and Charlie came to life that I was going to have a lot of fun with this series, and I think readers will enjoy Charlie's progression as he goes from one posting to another.

Charlie’s travels will take him from Havana (Book 1) to Moscow (Book 2) to Tokyo (Book 3), with other destinations to follow. Though he will learn from his mistakes along the way, trouble will continue to find him and he'll probably always suffer from occasional lapses in judgment, even if his intentions are good. I truly hope readers will enjoy following his journey as much as I have enjoyed charting the course.