I first discovered Barbara Vine's (Ruth Rendell's alter ego) A Fatal Inversion when I was about 15 and I watched the BBC adaption with two of my school friends. We were engrossed. I loved it so much that I was straight up to WH Smiths to buy the book. As is normally the rule with these things, the book is better than the film.
Despite knowing the ending, it didn't spoil the book as the tension was built the whole way through the story and I also felt like I was in on a secret as I could see the red herrings and the proper clues crafted into the narrative.
Let me give you the background...it's the long hot summer of '76 and a couple of students find themselves at Wyvis Hall or 'Ecalpemos' as they christen it (which is someplace, spelt backwards - this is the kind of attention to detail that brought this book alive to me). Everything starts off idyllic, lazy summer days, too much alcohol and other over indulgences. But as we know from the prologue when a skeleton is discovered in the hall grounds in the summer of '86 it soon becomes apparent that the inhabitants of the house a decade earlier probably know more about the body than is first thought.
I devoured this book and it's still on my book shelf all these years later. As I became hooked on this story I began to let my own imagination wander and the seeds of what would come 'Betrayal' were sown.
I wanted to write my own murder mystery - obviously I have much to learn from the almighty Rendell/Vine but every writer has to start somewhere.
I didn't set my mystery in an old English Manor, my characters lived in a penthouse in New York. I liked the idea of a glamorous setting and even glamorous characters. The tag line 'Flawlessly beautiful but fatally flawed' popped into my head very early on for my characters. Rather than weave clues into the story I gave all my character a reason to 'off' the dastardly Marcus, which was fairly easy to do as he wasn't the nicest of blokes. Whether I did this subconsciously I'm not sure as the characters/suspects in Vine's book Adam and Rufus were especially unlikeable. I flipped mine, I wanted the reader to feel some kind of empathy for whoever killed Marcus.
Vine tells her story through the eyes of the boys in the book and the mystery unravels itself, leaving you almost guessing at the end as to whether justice was done.
In Betrayal I took inspiration from another huge influence on my writing, Agatha Christie. I wanted a 'Poirotesque' scene in the book by where all the suspects are assembled and the killer is unmasked. (I actually use this method again in Famous & Shameless as it's so effective). Although I have yet to use a Belgian detective in these scenes, I think that character belongs to someone else!!
So yes, A Fatal Inversion massively changed my life it gave me the crux of an idea to start writing. It's also a book I love re-reading and in fact, it's next on my list for when I finish my current book.
Would love to know if there are any books that have a special place in your heart!