Parades commissioner pens detective thriller

Catriona King
Catriona King
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AN attempt to create a Northern Irish equivalent of Morse or Rebus has been produced – from a surprising debut author.

Dr Catriona King, one of the seven-strong Parades Commission, has just penned a “post-Troubles” novel about a Belfast murder detective.

Set in a fictional headquarters in the Sailortown area of the city, the book does not mention the PSNI once, and the author was careful to keep the central character as politically-correct as possible; a mixed-nationality police officer who went to an integrated school.

And despite three murders and one attempted murder in the first of what she hopes will be a four-book series, none of them has sectarian overtones.

Asked if this was ignoring the “elephant in the room”, south Belfast-based Dr King, in her 40s, said: “It’s about being inclusive and reflecting that Northern Ireland is a cosmopolitan place – which is great, I think.

“It’s not for me to make political points. It’s a story. People can read it and hopefully enjoy it.

“I think there are a lot of books about the Troubles; I’m not sure that’s what I wanted to write.

“I wanted to write something that could be set in any city – but is set in Northern Ireland.

“I’m not a political being, and I think there are a lot of people who want escapism.”

She added: “The elephant may be in the room, but a lot of people don’t always want to look at it...

“Is it naive to ignore that? I think people like a bit of naïveté every now and again.”

The central protagonist, detective Chief Inspector Marc Craig, is half Northern Irish, half Italian, and faces a trio of killings in the debut book ‘A Limited Justice’, published today.

She said: “I thought: why isn’t there a murder detective based in Northern Ireland? Oxford has Morse. Edinburgh has Rebus. Glasgow has Taggart. Why doesn’t Belfast have one?”

The writing is also informed by her professional work as a doctor.

She worked in London for many years as a specialist in community paediatrics, before returning to Ulster in 2007.

While in England, she had been called on by police to examine rape and child abuse victims, and to testify in court.

“Hopefully [the novel] is forensically correct, procedurally correct,” she said.

“It has been looked at by a friend who was in the police and they thought it was a good story.”

She took up her post on the Parades Commission last year, after the novels had been written.

Dr King said: “Thankfully determinations are declining in number.

“Ultimately the Parades Commission would like to do itself out of a job. We’d love it if people came to us and said: ‘we’ve reached our own arrangements’.”