The first in a nail-shredding new crime series, Perfect Remains is a chilling journey into the mind of a troubled killer. Here, the book’s author Helen Fields discusses how a childhood holiday to France was to later influence her in the creation of the book’s protagonist, Detective Inspector Luc Callanach.
I was thirteen when my parents sent me off alone to France for the summer to holiday with family in Toulouse. I boarded the plane full of dread, my French extremely limited, feeling as if I had received some sort of prison sentence. When I look back, the first thing I recall is the scent coming through the car window as we drove from the airport to the house. It was floral, fruity, earthy. In my mind, it is the very definition of sunshine.
I was welcomed into the house and immediately given food I had no words for, and that I wasn’t sure how to eat. I was told that I looked pale (I did) and that I was very quiet (I was). Then their sons came in. Four of them, ranging from nineteen to twenty-eight. Patrice I had met before as he had been my older brother’s pen pal but the others were creatures from a different species. To me boys were grubby, whiny, annoying and unpleasant. What I saw, and in my memory the whole scene is bathed in the deep pink/orange light of sunset, was perfect human beings – funny, loud, crazy, hugging, laughing, joyous. And beautiful. One of those families who, had reality TV been a thing then, who have been set high on the pedestal of celebrity and worshipped by all. It was, to a teenager who had yet to find out what it meant to fancy a member of the opposite sex, quite a day.
“The country itself is the embodiment of Callanach which was why casting him as a broken, tortured soul was so much more dramatic and effective.”
When I created Luc Callanach he could only ever have been French. That defining day of my life aside, it’s something to do with the accent, isn’t it? And the body language – the shrugging, the gesticulation, the larger than life facial expressions. They call French the language of love and whilst that’s a horrible cliche, it is one that is inevitably true. Paris is often called the most romantic city in the world. Then there are the wine growing regions, the beaches, the mountains. It is a country made for enjoyment. And the French are good at enjoying themselves. The country itself is the embodiment of Callanach which was why casting him as a broken, tortured soul was so much more dramatic and effective.
Since that first visit, I have enjoyed many blissful visits to France. I admire the passion its people still have and how they protect their way of life. I love the way that family is important to them. I love the way they are able to talk about and indulge their passion for…love. And it was the crucial element in the book to contrast with the bold, feisty, straight-talking Scots, although if you could pick up any UK city and set it down in France seamlessly, it would be Edinburgh. Luc Callanach is half-French, half-Scot. Call me self-indulgent. Seems pretty perfect to me.
Helen Fields studied law at the University of East Anglia, then went on to the Inns of Court School of Law in London. After completing her pupillage, she joined chambers in Middle Temple where she practised criminal and family law for thirteen years. After her second child was born, Helen left the Bar. Together with her husband David, she runs a film production company, acting as script writer and producer. Perfect Remains is set in Scotland, where Helen feels most at one with the world. Helen and her husband now live in Hampshire with their three children and two dogs.