A TRIP TO THE DARK SIDE
When respected journalist, Maddy, goes to interview prostitutes in a rundown Manchester pub, she doesn’t reckon on attracting the attention of their ruthless pimp, Gilly. He quickly decides to use Maddy for his own gains; he just needs to work out how.
A TOXIC AFFAIR
In the weeks that follow, Maddy is oblivious to Gilly’s growing obsession with her, particularly when she begins a romance with a successful businessman, Aaron. Their passionate love affair starts to dominate her life, and she finds herself losing control and alienating the people around her.
A TARGET ON HER BACK
As Maddy’s safe and successful life starts to crumble around her, she must quickly work out who has it in for her, before it’s too late…
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I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Journalist Maddy’s latest assignment takes her to interview working girls. Their pimp sees something in Maddy, a lifestyle that used to be his, and could be again. Maddy lives with her young daughter, she has a good life, all of which her pursuit by the pimp and her new man could jeopardise.
This story is dark and menacing. Maddy, despite her professionalism, is naive and this makes her vulnerable to manipulation. All the girls have a story, why they ended up as working girls, as Maddy’s life unravels she realises how fine the line between safety and danger is.
The story is slow paced, to begin with, as the characters are introduced, and the ease with which different worlds can collide is explored. As the book progresses the adrenaline increases. An interesting start to this new series, with a contemporary, realistic edge.
How ‘The Mark’ Developed – Heather Burnside
I first found my inspiration for The Mark when watching a TV detective series many years ago. I tend to jot down ideas as they occur to me then revisit them years later when I’m deciding which novel I should write next. This particular TV scene featured a senior female detective who was sitting in a rundown pub talking to prostitutes and trying to get information from them.
She was refined, well-dressed and well-spoken and looked totally out of place surrounded by street girls with their provocative clothing and garish makeup. I remember thinking how brave she was to venture into the pub alone and that she was leaving herself open to all sorts of risks.
That gave me the seed of an idea. The police detective became my protagonist, Maddy, who is followed home from the pub by a seedy pimp, Gilly. She appeals to him because she is so different from the women he is used to dealing with and initially he sees her as a challenge. Gilly is attracted not only to Maddy but to her lifestyle too.
During the course of the novel, we find out that Gilly’s background is far different from the life he now leads. As a young man he came from an affluent middle-class home but he was thrown out of university for dealing in drugs and his parents subsequently disowned him and left him to find his own way in the world. In Maddy he sees the life he should have had and he soon becomes obsessed with her. I won’t tell you any more than that as I don’t want to give the story away.
Once I decided to write ‘The Mark’, I carried out a lot of research by reading books about the life of a prostitute and watching online videos. The videos, in particular, were a real eye-opener. They featured several street girls who discussed what they did and what led them to a life of prostitution. Most of the girls were hooked on drugs and were prostituting themselves to feed their drug habit. Many had difficult upbringings or had spent time in care and living on the streets.
Watching the videos made me think that each of the girls had their own story to tell, which made me decide to expand ‘The Mark’, into a series of books with each subsequent book featuring the story of one of the girls. So, that initial idea many years ago has led to a series of possibly four or more books.
One of the girls, in particular, stuck in my mind when I was watching the videos. She was an ageing prostitute with a bad chest problem who couldn’t afford to take time off work because she needed the money for drugs. She was therefore still plying her trade in all weathers despite her considerable health problems. That particular girl provided the inspiration for a character that appears in a later book in the series.
It’s interesting how one small idea can take root in an author’s mind and develop into the basis for a whole series of books. I suppose that’s why authors do what we do because we have such active imaginations.
Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.
Extract from ‘The Mark’ – Heather Burnside.
Maddy was behind the wheel of her Audi. Sapphire blue and polished until it was gleaming, the vehicle was just as easy on the eye as its driver. She turned into the tree-lined road in Flixton where she lived. She owned a three-bedroomed detached house, which she shared with her eight-year-old daughter, Rebecca.
As Maddy sped into the drive, she glanced again at the clock on the dashboard. 19:58. She’d just made it. Maddy was surprised that her first interview with the prostitutes had taken so long but at least she’d gleaned some good information from them and had managed to arrange another meeting before the girls had all become nervous of someone at the bar.
Maddy’s ex-husband, Andy, was bringing Rebecca back at eight o’clock and, although he was fairly easy-going, Maddy always liked to be on time. Thank God his working hours were flexible. It meant he could pick Rebecca up from school whenever Maddy had to work late. As she parked the car, Maddy put thoughts of her working day out of her mind. It was time to concentrate on family now and, in her line of business, it wasn’t always a good idea to mix the two.
As soon as Maddy stepped inside her hallway she had that familiar comforting feeling she always got when she returned home. Like everything else surrounding Maddy, her home was immaculate and tastefully furnished. But it was more than that; it was a cosy home that felt lived in. She quickly switched on the hall lamp, which bathed the interior with a subtle amber glow, highlighting the polished wooden flooring, expensive rug, and stunning artwork that hung on the walls.
Maddy walked through the house, switching on the lights in the main rooms and plumping up cushions before flicking the switch on the kettle. She had no sooner pulled a mug from the cupboard than she heard the doorbell ring. Maddy dashed to answer the door, delighted to find her daughter Rebecca standing there with Andy by her side.
Rebecca gave her mother an affectionate hug. ‘I scored a goal, Mum,’ she gushed before rushing indoors.
‘Everything OK?’ Maddy asked once Rebecca was inside.
‘Yeah, she’s fine,’ said Andy. ‘She’s been to netball club after school. They had a practice match and apparently, she was the hero of the hour.’
Maddy smiled. ‘Great,’ she said. ‘I must go and congratulate her.’
‘OK. See you next weekend,’ he said.
‘Yeah, see you then,’ said Maddy.
Then she shut the front door straight away and went through to the lounge to find Rebecca. That was how it was with Andy now. After being divorced for four years, emotion didn’t come into it as far as she was concerned. They were just two adults sharing joint responsibility for their daughter.
Maddy was well over those early days when their separation had torn at her heart. It had been difficult to walk away but Andy’s infidelity had left her with no choice. She was too proud to carry on with the marriage after that and knew that she’d never be able to trust him again.
Nowadays they maintained a united front when it came to anything involving Rebecca whilst getting on with their own lives. Maddy preferred it that way and she knew that it was the best way to deal with the situation.
Rebecca had already switched on the TV and Maddy sat down beside her, stroking Rebecca’s hair as she held her close.
‘So, you scored a goal, did you?’
‘Yes, and all the girls were cheering. And Jade Coulson said after the match that I’d saved our side from getting beat. Jade Coulson doesn’t normally bother with me much. She’s, like, so-o-o cool. I can’t believe she likes me now.’