In Unraveled Visions, the 2nd of my Shaman Mystery Series, a character says, “Ninety-nine percent of murders only have one of two true motives. Change, or status quo.” Is that so? The detective in the Shaman Mysteries things so; I’m still unsure; I never pretend to hold the same views as my characters.
Detective Reynard Buckley meets Sabbie Dare – my 29 year-old heroine – at the start of Book One of the series, In the Moors. Rey is investigating a child abduction and murder when he knocks on her door. Rey is the archetypal humourless, maverick policeman who quickly brands shamanic therapist Sabbie as a crank. He considers her profession ‘mumbo jumbo’, finding its lack of objective evidence perplexing. But Sabbie can’t help finding him…interesting. This makes for a relationship a bit like an upmarket cocktail – bitter, and full of ice, but with a sparkler fizzing at the edge.
Sabbie walks in the spirit world to find answers to people’s problems, and comes back with images and symbols which manifest her client’s underlying issues. Meanwhile, Rey Buckley clears up crime through old-fashioned police work and hard facts. But as they get to know each other, they understand that they have something in common. They both solve things using what Sabbie would call intuition – Rey would more likely call it ‘a hunch’.
When Rey tells Sabbie that he thinks all murders are due to one of two motives, ‘change’, or ‘status quo’, she challenges this immediately. What about money? Crimes of passion? Suicide bombers? What about madness? But Rey’s answer is unequivocal. He believes all killers crave one of two things. Either they want change – the big win, a new political situation. Or they are desperate that things should not change – they kill their lover’s spouse, or kill to stop a crime being discovered. Sane or mad, Rey concludes that the motivation which drives people to kill is not complicated at all.
Well, he would, wouldn’t he. Reynard Buckley worked his way up from the ranks and has trouble, nowadays, fitting into the ethos of the modern UK police force. Whereas Sabbie has survived an extreme childhood; she never knew her father, and when she lost her mother at six years old, she was brought up in children’s homes. She believes she’s the stronger for this background, but the truth is she learnt almost all her values from two elderly couples; her foster parents Gloria and Philip, 1st generation immigrants, and Rhiannon and Bren, two cunning folk she lodged with while she was taking her degree.
Sabbie thinks deeply. By walking into the otherworld – the spirit realm that shaman enter in a trance state – she has encountered profound philosophies of life. It has made her understand how we carry two sides to our nature. There is always a shadow side to our psyches; inside us is the possibility of hate, greed, envy – the things that lead to wrong doing, hurting others…murder.
As the Trilogy of the Shaman Mysteries progress, Sabbie begins to realize that it is not entirely coincidence that she constantly encounters these shadow sides. In each novel, one of Sabbie’s clients brings her close to murder – whether from change or status quo. It’s her business, as someone who walks on both planes of existence, to help where she can, even when her own safety is threatened.
This is one of the things I love about writing crime fiction. Crime is so close to the hub of humanity. I like to examine, and describe, the affect that crime has on the people it touches; the victims, the bystanders and the perpetrators themselves. It’s easy to forget the after-effects of something as traumatic as a murder, how those left behind continue to grieve, not just for their loss, but in the not knowing how that person suffered. This is something I try to address – when I’m not terrifying my reader to pieces!
I also love to work out the mystery aspect, to puzzle the reader and spring surprises, keeping them on the edge of their seat. My readers say they stay up all night, turning the pages of the Shaman Mysteries; I stay awake at night to sort out the permutations of each murder. How did they do it? Where did they do it? What happened after they did it? And most importantly why did they do it – what brought them to that moment they kill another human being? Was it change, I ask myself? Or status quo?
Nina Milton is most well known for her crime fiction series The Shaman Mysteries Series, published by Midnight Ink Books (Llewellyn Worldwide). In the Moors and Unravelled Visions were published in 2013 and 2014 and the third in the series, Beneath the Tor is now in production. The Shaman Mysteries feature Sabbie Dare, a young British shaman of mixed race, living in Somerset. Milton, a Druid, and says of the series, Sabbbie Dare came into my head, fully formed. She said; “Every day, people on the edge walk into my therapy room with their problems. Honestly, I could write a book about some of them…” Milton has been publishing books since 1995, for children, especially 9+ readers, as well as adults. Her short stories have appeared in many literary journals and anthologies. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and works for the Open College of the Arts. She was born, educated and raised her two children in the City of Bristol but now lives in west Wales with my husband James, where she grows our own veg and keep chickens. Join her on her vibrant blogbsite, KitchenTableWriters.
Find out more on Nina Milton’s CRA Profile.