A Writing Blog

Blog – Death in Kabul

Death in Kabul will be published on 31 March, and there will be a launch event hosted by the Edinburgh Bookshop on 29 March – see below for details.

Just some of my research material

Naturally, you might ask how I came to embark on a series set in Afghanistan, a country which I’ve never been to and of course, as things stand, I will probably never be able to visit in future (or at least not for a very long time). When I finished the Tattoo Thief series, I started to think about writing something completely different. Nick lived and worked in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2007, and it struck me that if I could bring his unique experience and insights of the country into a crime novel, we might have something rather intriguing – so the work began. Death In Kabul is a 100 percent a murder mystery, not a political thriller about Afghanistan or the Taliban.

Our main character, Mac Mackenzie, is an ex-Met police detective who is seconded to work on a murder case in Kabul. A British serviceman is found with his throat cut, but because of the location, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Afghan police in the form of Major Jananga. Mac and Jananga form a team, but for Mac the challenges are immediately obvious – there are none of the forensic and police procedural tools he’s used to, such as DNA analysis, CCTV footage, criminal records or even fingerprinting. The Afghan police’s main tool for investigation is interrogation, often bloody and brutal. Mac feels immediately out of his depth.

Our other central character is Basima Khan – known as Baz. Born in America to Afghan parents, she’s an investigative reporter, digging into the illegal trade in Afghanistan’s priceless antiquities. She’s in the unique position of being an Afghan woman who has been brought up in the US, with American attitudes, and she’s almost as much of a stranger in Afghanistan as Mac is. When their investigations overlap, they find they’ve stumbled into something far bigger than either of them reckoned with. As you can imagine, writing the character of Baz, feisty and inquisitive, was great fun, and Baz and Mac return in the second book in the series, Death In Helmand.

As Canelo were about to announce this new series last August, the Taliban took over Afghanistan and the world watched the heart-breaking images of the disastrous evacuation of Kabul. Our announcement was quickly put on hold. Since then, the country has been plunged into a humanitarian crisis that’s worse than anything it’s been through before. With the freezing of Afghan assets and money abroad, the ordinary people have fallen into unimaginable poverty and deprivation. Nick and I quickly decided that we would donate 10 percent of our author royalties to Afghan Aid, a UK-based charity supporting Afghan families in distress – you can find out more about their work here.

The pandemic has been a difficult time for writers, with many launches missed or held via zoom – particularly hard on debut writers. Now, we’re beginning to get back to the joys of live book events, so can I tempt you to join us for the launch of Death In Kabul? The Edinburgh Book Shop is hosting us, and our wonderful agent Jenny Brown will be posing the questions – about the new series, Nick’s time in Afghanistan and how we managed, as brother and sister, to write a book together without falling out!

The launch is on Tuesday 29th March at 7.30pm, at Christ Church Centre, Morningside Road. Tickets are available from the Edinburgh Book Shop.

I hope to see some of you there!

Afghanistan is one of the world’s most fascinating countries
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