‘Do that which is good and no evil shall touch you’
That was the note the so-called Raphael killer left on each of his victims. Everyone in Glasgow – investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil included – remember the murder of three women in Glasgow which sent a wave of terror through the city. They also remember that he is still at large…
When the police investigation into the Raphael killings reopens, Oonagh is given a tip-off that leads her straight to the heart of a complex and deadly cover-up. When history starts to repeat itself, it seems the killer is closer than she thinks. Could Oonagh be the next target…?
Hi, thanks so much for asking me along. I’m Theresa Talbot and Keep Her Silent is the second in the Oonagh O’Neil series. This book has been such a labour of love for me. There are three strands running through the narrative; The unsolved Raphael Killings from the 70s, a woman incarcerated in a secure unit for killing her husband and son, and the tainted blood scandal, where thousands of patients across the world were infected with Hep C & HIV through contaminated blood products. The tainted blood scandal is a real-life horror story. Described by Sir Robert Winston as the ‘worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS’ it has wrecked lives, ripped families apart and destroyed victims hopes & dreams for the future.
Although Keep Her Silent is a work of fiction, this part of the story is based on real characters and real-life events. I’ve worked closely with one of the victims and sadly his story is one of nightmares. I’m a journalist, and although, yes I was aware of the scandal, I had no idea of the impact it had and continues to have on the victims.
I decided on a real-life crime as the main backdrop to my story and in particular this one for several reasons. I’ve always been completely fascinated by institutionalised crime; the way that criminal activity is carried out under the full glare of the public, with very few, if any, perpetrators ever facing justice. We only need to glance back a few years to Jimmy Saville, Paedophile rings within religious orders, and corrupt MPs who never face trial.
For me it’s more than a scandal, more than a tragedy – it’s the biggest crime of the 20th century and beyond. For those unfamiliar with the background: In the 70s & 80s, thousands of haemophiliacs and blood transfusion patients were given contaminated blood products, and subsequently went on to develop Hepatitis and HIV. It was soon discovered that pharmaceutical companies making the products were using ‘skid-row donors’ – paying prisoners, drugs addict & sex workers for each donation, with no rigorous checks on where the blood came from. Thousands of people – including children – have died as a result and many more left disabled, yet despite this not one person has faced criminal prosecution in this country. Pharmaceutical giants made millions from this, they put profit before the suffering of mankind, and were given the full protection of the law. Threading this theme through a crime novel seemed natural to me – readers invest in characters, they sit up and take notice of the human tragedy, they laugh and cry and understand how lives are affected – so much more than if they read about it in a newspaper, or see a news item about it.
That said, I’ve never felt so nervous about writing as I was with this book. I worked very closely with one of the victims and was so desperate to get it right and do him justice. He’d been so open and honest, telling his story. He’s lived with this every day for over forty years. I was acutely aware that Keep Her Silent is a work of fiction, and will mainly be read for entertainment – I needed to ensure that it packed a punch. My research took me down so many paths, I was almost overwhelmed at one stage. There was so much suffering and human tragedy and was still happening in plain sight yet no-one seemed to care.
Despite the dark subject matter, the book is injected with humour. Like life, we often use humour to shed light on tragic situations; otherwise, it would become too heavy..
My main character Ooagh O’Neil is a journalist. She’s flawed and troubled and sometimes gets it wrong – but readers tell me they can identify with her. On the surface, she seems to have a charmed life, but underneath chaos ensues. When she discovers the full horrors of the tainted blood scandal she’s like a dog with a bone and won’t let go. Obviously, there could be no ‘happy ever after’ to this book. This is a real-life tragedy that’s still waiting for justice. Instead, I used my own dramatic licence to give some much-needed resolution to this. I felt such a huge responsibility to everyone affected to get it right. Thankfully, so far, it’s had a very positive response
Another episode of dangerous investigative journalism with Oonagh O’Neil that unfolds with the unpredictability of real life and grips the reader with its intensity and menace.
If you haven’t met Oonagh previously you’ve missed out, but this story reads well as a standalone, with enough backstory to illuminate Oonagh as a character and provide the pertinent details on her relationships, motivations and demons.
There are both historic and present timelines and several plot threads that are intricately woven to reveal a polished ending. The writing style draws you in until enthralled you have to know what happens next. The themes are shocking, more so because they highlight real-life conspiracy.
A unique combination of crime, conspiracy and killing seen through the eyes of a quirky, on the edge investigative journalist and a cynical, but thorough policeman makes this a memorable story and a series that I can’t wait to continue.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Theresa Talbot is a BBC broadcaster and freelance producer. A former radio news editor, she also hosted The Beechgrove Potting Shed on BBC Radio Scotland, but for many, she will be most familiar as the voice of the station’s Traffic & Travel.
Late 2014 saw the publication of her first book, This Is What I Look Like, a humorous memoir covering everything from working with Andy Williams to rescuing chickens and discovering nuns hidden in gardens. She’s much in demand at book festivals, both as an author and as a chairperson. TwitterFacebook