If only someone had listened…
When the supposed suicide of famous Scottish football coach Harry Nugent hits the headlines, the tabloids are filled with tributes to a charitable pillar of the community that gave so much back to sport and to those less fortunate.
But something isn’t right. Normally celebrities are queuing up to claim to have had a very special relationship with the deceased, but investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil is getting the distinct impression that people are trying to distance themselves from Harry.
Oonagh’s investigation leads her to uncover a heartbreakingly haunting cover-up that chills her to the core… and places her in mortal danger from those willing to protect their sadistic and dark secrets at any cost…
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The third in the series of the investigative journalist, Oonagh O’Neil, novels, once again tackles a heinous crime that is currently topical. The grisly death of a high-profile football coach opens a dark and powerful web of lies and secrets that exist in plain sight, yet no one appears to care.
The appeal of this story is its authenticity and topicality. There is no gratuitous description in this story, but the themes are dark and hard to read about. The story follows Oonagh’s investigation into the football coach’s death, and what lies behind it. It leads her into some dark places, with frightened victims, and powerful culprits, who will stop at nothing to save themselves.
Oonagh is a clever and tenacious investigator, who uses her contacts ruthlessly, and her personal experiences to get to the truth. Her flaws and overuse of alcohol, make her relatable, and real, Given what she sees and experiences in the course of her investigations, it isn’t surprising she needs to forget sometimes.
The language and behaviour give the novel’s setting authenticity and the plot is cleverly twisted and layered with menace and suspense. The ending ties up the investigation well and concludes this disturbingly poignant story convincingly.
Author Interview -Theresa Talbot – The Quiet Ones
Interview Questions – Theresa Talbot
What are the inspirations behind your Oonagh O’Neil series, and this story in particular?
All three of my Oonagh O’Neil books have been inspired by real-life events. As a journalist, I’m particularly interested in those crimes committed in plain sight – institutionalised crimes and injustices where often no-one will ever be convicted. The Lost Children was the first in the series and came about after research I was doing on the Magdalene Intuition – for those readers unfamiliar with the Magdalenes, there’s a wealth of information online. But they effectively were asylums to house so-called ‘fallen women’. I’d discovered there had been one in Glasgow and once I started digging, I was hooked and formed a crime novel around the circumstances surrounding its closure. Keeping Her Silent was inspired by the tainted blood scandal – again a google search will lead you down a wormhole which will shock you. I interviewed one of the victims and the story was the perfect backdrop for a crime novel. This latest, The Quiet Ones, came about after a chance meeting with a Glasgow Taxi driver who had been instrumental in the conviction of a football coach who had been abusing boys in his care. There’s nothing graphic in the novel – we all know how horrific such cases are – rather the story focuses on how a public figure can evade justice for so long. We only have to look at the likes of Jimmy Saville & Jeffrey Epstein to know that this is sadly a reality.
How did you create your Oonagh O’ Neil, investigative journalist character? Is she based on someone you know, an imaginative creation, or a little of both?
I’ve grown so fond of Oonagh. Given my background (I’m a freelance journalist with BBC Scotland) it was easy for me to create the character. She’s not based on me, but some people recognise certain traits and characteristics. I wanted to make her a real, flesh and blood character. She’s flawed, she gets things wrong, she’s a bit of a mess at times – but she has integrity and always fights for the underdog. Professionally she’s top of her game – personally, she’s a train-wreck. Too often we shy away from flawed female characters – but they exist in real life, and should exist on the page too. I named her after Charlie Chaplin’s last wife – the love of his life. He’s a hero of mine, so I stole her name and changed the spelling.
How do you make your characters believable?
I teach creative writing workshops and this is my favourite topic. Characters have to be allowed to have flaws and make mistakes. Also, they need to be on a journey, developing as the storyline progresses. How they deal with conflict is crucial – what’s their motivation? What’s the story BEHIND their motivation? And finally, give them a voice. Each character has to have a unique way of speaking. Read the dialogue aloud. Does it drive the story forward, does it fit with the character’s motivation? All of this will help shape your characters. I know some of the advice suggests know everything about your character – birthday, favourite colour, child-hood pet etc… I make it up as I go along.. but I know what drives Oonagh. I know what makes her tick. I know why she doesn’t suffer fools gladly, I know why she drinks too much and pushes the self-destruct button now and again. She has dark hair – I put that in the first novel, but other than that it doesn’t really matter what she looks like. The reader can decide that – that’s a personal thing between the reader and the character – it’s really none of my business.
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
For my first book, the character and the plot became intertwined very quickly. Initially, I suppose it was the seed of an idea surrounding a riot that closed the Magdalene asylum in Glasgow – then I had a female journalist investigate the story behind it. But the end story is nothing like what I imagined it to be. Now it’s the character – Once I had Oonagh as a fully formed character I had to find stories for her to investigate.
What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since my late teens. I came from a family of storytellers, and I love listening to stories and reading of course. As a journalist, I’ve written every day of my professional life for the past 25 years so moving into fiction was the best stage for me. Crime genre was I suppose the obvious one – most journalists turn to crime eventually!
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I love crime books, especially Scottish crime fiction – but they have to have well-developed characters and gripping storylines and be devoid of sexualised violence. I know sexual violence exists, but I abhor when violence is sexualised. I also love black humour, slice of life and uplit. Anne Tyler is an old favourite that I need to revisit. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is simply wonderful, and anything by George Orwell. I recently read Anne Griffin ‘When All Is Said.’ It’s her debut novel and beautifully written. I think my taste can be described as eclectic.
What are you currently writing?
I’m mortified to say I started three new books in one month – despite advice from other author friends not to! I still embarked on this utter madness until I realised I had to narrow it down. The other 2 have been put on ice for now, and I’m working on a standalone about a woman who was involved in a terrible accident and suffers from the most horrific survivor’s guilt. By the time you read this, I may have ditched that idea and resurrected the other 2 from the drawer!
Theresa Talbot is a freelance writer, journalist and radio presenter, perhaps best known as the voice of Traffic and Travel on BBC Radio Scotland and as the host of The Beechgrove Potting Shed. Prior to working with the BBC, she was with Radio Clyde and the AA Roadwatch team. Theresa worked in various roles before entering the media as an assistant in children’s homes, a Pepsi Challenge girl and a library assistant. She ended up at the BBC because of an eavesdropped conversation on a no.66 bus in Glasgow. Her passions include rescuing chickens, gardening, music and yoga. Twitter Facebook