• James Parry

Beaconsfield author H.O.N. Thornhill launches second Detective Susie Jameson crime novel Set in mode


Detective Susie Jameson, created by Beaconsfield author, H.O.N. Thornhill, in her first crime novel (left), comes back to confront a murder in an Embassy in London in her second book, A Tough Person To Like.

Susie Jameson is an American ex-criminal lawyer living in London, England, who fell into working as a detective during a period of unemployment. A strong woman, but a bit of a doormat with plenty of issues and character flaws that she needs to resolve while making bad choices along the way, she hears Bach’s Partita Number Three in E Major for Solo Violin in her head whenever she feels lust in a strong way.

Beaconsfield resident, H.O.N. ’Hope’ Thornhill, is a former Ontario lawyer who, in 2002, practiced in London, England, working for regulatory agencies in the UK prosecuting major companies for breaking competition laws and breaching regulations until the big recession hit eight years later. And she found herself suddenly unemployed. So what do these two ladies – one a fictional character, the other an author - have in common?

“Quite a lot,” said Thornhill – who writes under a pen name to avoid any complications or confusion with her work as a lawyer – in an exclusive interview with Your Local Journal this week just after launching her second Susie Jameson crime novel, A Tough Person to Like.

“We are both lawyers from North America who lived and worked in London. We both lived in the East End of London, right near the River Thames. We both hit a speed bump in our careers and had a period of unemployment. However, the similarity ends there. The journey she goes through is very different from my own and certainly more interesting for the reader.”

So how did the idea of writing her first novel, A Face You Wouldn’t Remember published in November last year and also starring Detective Susie Jameson, come to her? “Because I suddenly found myself unemployed and had time on my hands,” said Thornhill, who was born in the other London - in Ontario - moved to Beaconsfield with her parents when she was 12, and lived in Ontario before moving back to her childhood home last summer.

Despite her travels, Thornhill is thrilled to be back. “The best things about Beaconsfield,” she says,” are running by the lake, running anywhere without a crowd unlike in London, and a great library where I borrowed all those books I read when I was younger.” Including those of her favourite crime writer, Conan Doyle. “Who doesn’t love Sherlock Holmes?

And I’m certainly not alone in saying that Mr. Holmes is a great character who continues to capture the imagination of people across the world. He is intelligent and solves the most puzzling crimes. Not only that, he has a sense of justice and humanity.” As for Thornhill’s first book, here’s a brief synopsis.

Detective Susie Jameson stumbles upon a dead body at an embassy party. She decides to investigate the case for her old friend and fellow American, the Ambassador, only because the salary for the investigator is very high and she desperately needs the money. But no one is who they appear to be in this case. And the plot thickens. In her latest novel, Detective Jameson is still in London when the political climate during the American Revolution is resurrected in modern day Britain when an American is murdered there. Enter the world of Americans working in London.

A clash of cultures. A clash of personalities. Infidelity. Intrigue. Murder. A criminal trial at the Old Bailey. Is the right man on trial or is the trial a witch-hunt? Says Thornhill, “One of the themes in A Tough Person to Like is the stormy relationship between Americans and the British. The political climate during the American Revolution is alive and well in this novel. The Americans and the British don’t seem to get along.

But there are at least two sides to every story and there are at least two sides in this murder investigation. “The reader not only gets the back story with Detective Jameson, but hears the jury trial at the Old Bailey in London. It’s a chance for the reader to cut through the rhetoric and decide what really happened in the case.” Asked what, in her personal opinion, makes for a good lead character in such a novel, Thornhill is unequivocal.

“The lead character should be intelligent. He or she should not be perfect. Perfection is not interesting for the reader. Some character flaws are necessary. Holmes has his addiction. Detective Jameson has her self-esteem issues. There has to be a personal challenge for the detective as well as a challenging crime to solve. That makes it so much more interesting for the reader.”

As for the plot itself, Thornhill adds, “This has to engage the reader and there are a number of ways to do that. There should be a cliff hanger at the end of each chapter. There should be surprises. The reader expects X, but the author gives the reader Y. Romance is a must for the detective. A surprise ending or a surprise in the resolution of the case is a must. Ambiguity is also a great addition to the plot. Humour is a great way to break up the tension in a crime novel.

And these are the guidelines I have followed in my two novels so far.” Will there be more? “Absolutely,” said Thornhill. “I am currently revising book three and hope to have it published in 2015. I also have some ideas for book four, which may be set in Montreal.” As to whom she hopes will be reading them, Thornhill laughs. “People like me who have read all the detective novels out there and are looking for something a little different.” Both novels are available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

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