In Unraveled Visions, the 2nd of my Shaman Mystery Series, a character says…“Ninety-nine percent of murders only have one of two true motives. Change, or status quo.”
Is that so? Rey Buckley, detective and love interest in the Shaman Mysteries Series believes so; I’m still unsure; I never pretend to hold the same views as my characters.
Detective Reynard Buckley meets Sabbie Dare – the 30 year old heroine of the series – at the start of Book One, In the Moors. D.S Buckley is investigating a child abduction and murder when he knocks on her door. Rey is the archetypal humourless, maverick policeman who quickly brands shamanic therapist Sabbie as a crank. He considers her profession ‘mumbo jumbo’, finding its lack of objective evidence perplexing. Sabbie is equally hesitant…As a bloke, a copper and someone who wore their hair as if they were about to pull on flying goggles, I hadn’t put ‘listening to women’ anywhere on his priorities list. Even so, she can’t help finding him…interesting – there’s a wriggle of lust in her belly. This makes for a relationship a bit like an upmarket cocktail – bitter, and full of ice, but with a sparkler fizzing at the edge that gets deeper as the books continue.
Sabbie walks in the spirit world to find answers to people’s problems and comes back with images and symbols which manifest each client’s underlying issues. Meanwhile, Rey Buckley clears up crime through old-fashioned police work and hard facts. But they understand they have something in common. They both solve things using what Sabbie would describe as her link to the spirit world – Rey would more likely call it ‘a hunch’.
When Rey tells Sabbie that he thinks all murders are due to one of two motives, ‘change’, or ‘status quo’, she challenges this immediately. What about money? Crimes of passion? Suicide bombers? What about madness? But Rey’s answer is unequivocal. He believes all killers crave one of two things. Either they want change – the big win, a new political situation. Or they are desperate that things should not change – they kill their lover’s spouse, or kill to stop a crime being discovered. Sane or mad, Rey concludes that the motivations which drive people to kill is not complicated at all.
Well, he would, wouldn’t he. Reynard Buckley worked his way up through the ranks and by book three he's having trouble fitting into the ethos of the modern UK police force. Sabbie survived an extreme childhood; she never knew her father, and after she lost her mother at six years old, she was brought up in children’s homes. She believes she’s the stronger for this background. She gained that strength with the love of two elderly couples; her foster parents Gloria and Philip, and Rhiannon and Bren, two cunning folk she lodged with while taking her degree.
In the Moors focuses on a vile, debased couple, sadistic paedophiles who have murdered and buried their child victims in the vast and boggy Somerset Moors. As the book progresses, we learn that they are long dead, but their spirits are still wandering around the site of the killings; a ruined cottage out on the moors where Sabbie detects their presence…“You can call me Kissie, darling,” said the woman. She had to search in her memory for her name, as if she’d not thought of it for a long time. “We’re Kissie and Pinchie.” she looked at me in such an openly inviting way that I felt my spine contract.
Kissie and Pinchie killed for ‘change’ – repeating the awful pleasure it afforded them. But at the heart of the novel is another killer, who is kidnapping young children. Is this a desire for change, or a need for status quo? Not until the very end of the book, when Sabbie is in the clutches of the killer, does she find out.
Book two – Unraveled Visions – is set in the underworld around migrant workers from other countries. Sabbe meets Kizzy and Mirela, Bulgarian Romas who are working in slave conditions. Kizzy is missing and her sister is worried… “Kizzy say we move on. Go find better thing to do. More money. She say, save and go back head high. She say, Mirela. take little risk. I don’t like. She say, ‘Mirela, you so uncool’.”
“Like I will never dip my toe.”
“In case the water’s too cold?”
“In case the water poison.”
What Sabbie uncovers is a sickening trade in which life is considered so cheap, bodies are simply discarded. This, too, is “change”…and these despicable people are making a lot of money.
As the Trilogy of the Shaman Mysteries progress, Sabbie begins to realize that it is not entirely coincidence that she constantly encounters these shadow sides. By walking into the otherworld – the spirit realm that shaman enter in a trance state – she has encountered profound philosophies of life. It has made her understand how we carry two sides to our nature. There is always a shadow side to our psyches; inside us is the possibility of hate, greed, envy – the things that lead to wrong-doing, hurting others…murder. It’s her business, as someone who walks on both planes of existence, to help where she can, even when her own safety is threatened.
In Beneath the Tor
– book three of the series – a sudden death becomes a catalyst…Alys was dancing as the stars reeled, dancing on Glastonbury Tor on Midsummer Eve. She danced as if the drumbeats were bursting out of her. As if her feet were charmed to never rest. I saw her dance.
I saw her drop.
She fell to the ground without a stumble or a cry.
What or who as killed Alys? As Sabbie begins to investigate, she discovers that someone is killing and maiming in Alys’s name. Is this revenge or sudden madness? Is it change or status quo?
I love puzzling out the mystery aspect of my crime fiction, to baffle and amaze the reader, and love to spring surprises on them to keep them on the edge of their seat. My readers say they stay up all night, turning the pages of the Shaman Mysteries; I’m awake at night sorting out the permutations of each murder. How did they do it? Where did they do it? What happened after they did it? And most importantly why did they do it – what brought them to that moment they kill another human being? Was it change, I ask myself? Or status quo?
Right now, I'm writing book four, and this time we definitely have status quo causing the murder we witness see right at the start. At the same time Sabbie is helping her old friend Debs through a terrible time, which will involve finding a missing girl…and the men who are holding her prisoner…
|Even I get terrified when I read my books
“Sabbie Dare is the most compelling protagonist I’ve met this year . . . Milton’s tale is riveting.”…Library Journal starred review
“Nina Milton has created a unique fictional world in her Shaman Mystery Series, featuring Sabbie Dare as a young shaman. With Beneath the Tor she passed the ultimate test of a writer, that of causing me to put off useful jobs which I really should have been doing, in order to see what happens next. She has become a mistress of plot-weaving, and above all, she pulls off the trick of setting the totally fantastic amid the totally everyday and making the two fit together with pace and excitement”.…Ronald Hutton, author of Pagan Britain and The Triumph of the Moon.