A completed trilogy of Scandi noir romantic suspense. More Stockholm-set novels coming soon!
The Stockholm Murders
"It was about then that I noticed I was staring at a human skeleton, tangled in the reeds at the edge of the water..."
The perfect man. The perfect life.
The only problem is the dead body on the beach.
How an awkward dinner led to a best seller...
It was a year or so after I'd moved to Stockholm on a whim. I’d been invited to dinner by a fabulous actress friend who liked to put together gatherings of random, glamorous people, actors, presenters, and designers. It’s a sprawling gang I still think of as the cool kids of Stockholm, despite the fact we were in our thirties then, and a few of us are knocking on fifty now. No, I don’t know how I snagged an invitation either, other than that my friend is also very lovely!
I arrived a bit late for reasons that escape me now, so everyone had sat by the time I got there. The ones I knew were clustered at one end — there were about thirty of us in total — and the only seat left was at the far end, surrounded by terrifyingly cool strangers. Now, I was in the film industry myself at the time and have always been fond of a party and meeting new people, so I was content enough to wander down and see if new friends were to be found.
However, the conversation was already in full flow. There were a couple of nods and muttered hejs in my direction as I sat, but they were all intent on their chat. Which was fine, except that, of course, it was all in Swedish.
As I mentioned, I’d lived there for about a year. I had basic conversational Swedish, but a lively drunken blether in a noisy restaurant was beyond my skills. Try as I might, I could not pick up the thread of the conversation.
I sat there for an entire dinner, not uttering a word, doing my best to smile and nod at what I hoped were the right places, feeling as though I was back in seventh grade when the popular kids pretended I was invisible for an entire day. It wasn’t anyone’s fault — I don’t think they even realised I wasn’t Swedish. I probably could have jumped in and made a joke about my rubbish Swedish skills if I’d been determined. But every minute that ticked by brought more latent teenage insecurity to the fore. By dessert, I was ready to hightail it to the airport and get on the first flight home.
Every immigrant has a story in which, rationally or irrationally, they felt more alone than they ever thought possible. Whether it’s unspoken social mores you have no idea about, different supermarket layouts meaning you can’t find that one ingredient when you’re hungry, or having someone translate the joke for you minutes after everyone else has laughed. It’s a very specific, very acute sense of isolation that can easily do your wee head in.
Don’t get me wrong — starting over in a new country is also an incredible, thrilling adventure and one of the best things I’ve ever done. But it tested my self-esteem and sense of security to an extreme degree. So naturally, I had to write a story about it!
The story that became Behind Blue Eyes started to form during a chat with a Canadian friend. I’d moved to Sweden alone, and there was a period when I got a bit obsessed with how easier it would all be if I had a Swedish partner. He could explain all the fiddly bits of Swedish life I couldn’t figure out, and I’d have his friends and family as a security blanket while I built my own life. It would be fantastic!
I mentioned this to my friend who moved for her Swedish husband, and she burst out laughing. He didn’t explain the fiddly bits of Swedish life because he had no idea they were fiddly. It was ten times more maddening, she explained, to go through all that frustration with someone who has no idea what your problem is. His friends and family hadn’t welcomed her with open arms, but she felt stuck having to traipse around his social life instead of having the freedom to go out and find her own friends.
I realised I had the perfect setting for a psychological thriller. Swedes, bless them, are wonderful, warm friends when you get to know them, but they aren’t exactly welcoming to strangers. Every Swedish immigrant I know went through a phase of genuinely wondering if they had become fundamentally unlikable or developed a body odour problem in their first months.
It really makes you question your own gut feelings. Moving around so much, I’ve made many new friends and pride myself on my ability to judge vibes, but in Sweden, that went out the window. Several people I was utterly convinced detested me are now amongst my closest friends, and at least one I was so sure was a pal who dropped me for reasons I still don’t know.
When everyone around you is draped in suspicion, you need to be able to read folk. If you can’t, you’re in big trouble. Meet Ellie!
I’m Claire and I'm giving myself a year to make this indie author thing work
"I had loved the authors Dark of Night/Glasgow Kiss books, so, as sometimes happens when an author moves on from a series, I worried that I may miss the familiar characters. I needn't have! I instantly took to the likeable and believable main character Ellie. The story had me gripped, CS Duffy, as usual, had surprising and clever twists to keep the reader wondering and the way she injects humour throughout a "crime thriller" book is brilliant and welcomed. Can't wait for more from this talented author."