A stolen baby. A murdered woman. A decades-old atrocity. Something connects them all.
A month before Christmas, and Ballyterrin on the Irish border lies under a thick pall of snow. When a newborn baby goes missing from hospital, it’s all too close to home for forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, who’s wrestling with the hardest decision of her life.
Then a woman is found in a stone circle with her stomach cut open and it’s clear a brutal killer is on the loose.
As another child is taken and a pregnant woman goes missing, Paula is caught up in the hunt for a killer no one can trace, who will stop at nothing to get what they want.
Published April 10th 2014 by Headline
Claire McGowan was born in 1981 in a small Irish village where the most exciting thing that ever happened was some cows getting loose on the road. After studying at Oxford and living in China and France, she now lives in London, where there aren’t any cows but there is the occasional murder in her street. She was previously Director of the Crime Writers’ Association and now teaches on the first ever crime-writing MA at City University. Despite being steeped in crime the worst thing she has ever done in real life is walk on some grass when the sign explicitly said not to. Claire’s debut novel THE FALL was published in January 2012 and received brilliant reviews. THE LOST followed in April 2013, garnering fantastic praise and has now been optioned by BBC Drama to develop into a series for BBC One. The DEAD GROUND is the second book featuring Paula Maguire.
Claire McGowan is @inkstainsclaire on Twitter or www.clairemcgowan.net
On April 10th I will have my third book published. Several years ago this would have seemed impossible and amazing. I probably wouldn’t have thought I’d be writing at least one book a year, or that they’d be set in Northern Ireland, where I grew up but left as soon as I could, or that I’d be writing not only crime fiction but a whole series about the same character.
I started out, like most people, with not much idea of what I wanted to write. Something highbrow and literary, that might win me the Booker Prize – despite the fact my favourite authors were Stephen King and Jilly Cooper. I also didn’t think I wanted to write about Ireland. I grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland, where everyone knows your business and nothing ever happens, save for the odd loose herd of cows or random terrorist incident.
I wrote all through my teens and twenties, never really finishing anything or working out what I wanted to write about. Then I realised I was almost halfway through one and I still hadn’t stopped. This was set in Northern Ireland, and dealt with issues about family, memory and the past that seem to fascinate me. I couldn’t quite get this book to work – something about the plot not gelling, or there not really being a plot – so after getting some interest from agents, but nothing concrete, I put it aside. I started to write a different story I’d thought of, which was fast-paced and demanded to be finished. This was set in London where I’d been living and had nothing to do with Ireland.
However, it crept back in again. I found myself thinking a lot about small towns, and especially the one I was from, and how it seeps into your memory so that every street and corner have something associated with them. Soon I had come up with a character who was returning home after a long time away, and a whole cast of characters from north and south of the border, as well as both sides of the religious divide. I really wanted to write a book where things weren’t as they seemed, trying to turn assumptions on their head. This is why I decided to make my main character, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, a specialist in missing persons rather than murder cases – although often the two collide.
At the end of The Lost I left Paula in a difficult situation. The Dead Ground picks up around a month after this, where we find her trying to make a very tough decision, while getting embroiled in a case that seems too close to home, as a baby goes missing from a local hospital one month before Christmas. Paula and the team have to deal with extreme pro-life groups and also a sinister faith healer, in a case that seems to make no sense and ultimately will put her own life in danger. You will also find out some more information about Paula’s mother, who disappeared when she was thirteen, and what might have happened to her. It’s been fantastic to have Ireland as a setting for this book, both the beautiful barren countryside, and also the strong beliefs in healing and folk wisdom that still persist. I hope people will enjoy it!