The Killing Line
The first time I killed someone it weighed very heavily on me, in fact I very nearly lost sleep over it. But, it’s like they say, the second time it was much easier. And by the third and fourth times it was water off a duck’s back.
My name’s Tammy Cohen. I’m an author. And a serial killer.
My first three books were about women in crisis. Though the situations they found themselves in – spurned lover, betrayed wife, grieving mother – were extreme, they were also recognisable. The whole time I was writing them, I was asking myself: would this happen? Is this likely? Because I wanted readers to relate to the characters, I tried to focus on behaviour and actions that tallied with most people’s experience.
Switching to crime in later books meant pushing the boundaries. Crime itself is on the outer limits of most people’s experience. It’s extreme. And most extreme of all is murder. Once you’ve killed off a character everything changes. The question becomes not would this happen, but could this happen? Ever? Killing off a character, means saying goodbye to writing about the universal human experience. And that’s quite scary.
I’m a pacifist by nature. I haven’t eaten meat since 1987. I catch insects in complicated arrangements of glasses and cardboard and throw them out of the door instead of squishing them. So my first murder was a big deal. Even though the act of violence took place largely off the page, the inclusion of it felt like crossing a monumental line. It’s the writing equivalent of cheating on a spouse. Once you’ve done it, there’s no going back. As a writer I was going from what I knew to what I had no concept of and that was a huge leap of faith.
I kept putting it off, trying to think of ways around it. Was there a way of getting the same dramatic tension but stopping short of murder? The short answer was no. Justice needed to be seen to be done. But even though the character deserved it, I felt a huge burden of responsibility for having killed him.
Nowadays, I stress about it less. The line has already been crossed. Murder doesn’t any more feel like such a huge leap into the unknown.
There are three things no-one can prepare you for when your daughter is murdered:
- You are haunted by her memory day and night
- Even close friends can't understand what you are going through.
- Only in a group with mothers of other victims can you find real comfort.
But as the bereaved parents gather to offer support in the wake of another killing, a crack appears in the group that threatens to rock their lives all over again.
Welcome to the club no one wants to join.
Wow. This is another seriously good read from Tammy Cohen - this time focussing on a group of parents whose children have been murdered. A tense, emotional read - I whizzed through this, all the while thinking that I didn't really know how Tammy was going to tie things up. It wasn't til I was nearly at the very end of the book that things came together and I was given the treat of a smashingly twisty ending.
None of the characters are very pleasant, although I did like Leanne - she comes across as incredibly real and easy to relate to - but all of the other characters have issues and I couldn't find myself having a huge amount of sympathy with them. It's understandable that they all have issues, given the circumstances in which they all know each other and I found the fact that I found them hard to relate to good, given that I have never experienced what they are going through.
In short, this was a bloody brilliant read - I had no clue how things were going to end and the twist is a cracker. I can't wait for more from Tammy Cohen.
First One Missing is out now and you can get it here:
**Huge thanks to the publisher for my ARC and to Tammy for her brilliant blog post**