When writing a mystery series featuring an agoraphobic hacker and a streetwise ex-con fighting crime in Wales, there are plenty of areas that need thorough research. With the first two novels Binary Witness and Code Runner, I needed to do a lot of work on the foundations – cybercrime and digital forensics, the prison and legal system, how to run across the South Wales countryside in the dead of night without another living soul seeing you.
Yet each new novel requires a little more research. In Captcha Thief, I expanded my reach into the world of art heists and sent my characters all across Wales – and beyond.
Here are five things I learned along the way:
Oxford lost a painting during the millennium celebrations – and they still haven't found it
While the fireworks were high in the sky and most of the UK was drunk on the new millennium spirit, thieves clambered over the scaffolding of the Oxford University Library and then in through the glass roof of the Ashmolean Museum to pilfer Cézanne's Auvers-sur-Oise.
The Impressionist painting was worth £3 million at the time of its theft, and while there have been rumours of its current location, the beautiful piece remains unrecovered. When planning my own art heist, I used this theft as a touchstone – though my thief was perhaps a little more subtle.
Glasgow is a city of contrasts, and the locals know it best
I have never visited Glasgow. So when I wanted my ex-con Jason to take a trip to the Scottish capital of crime, I need my own “man on the street” to bring me the inside scoop.
Enter Lisa Gray, Scottish journalist and crime aficionado: “Glaswegians are among the friendliest people you will ever meet! However, it's a city that also has a hard edge to it. Its residents know how to look after themselves in a fight!”
She also told me the great titbit that the Clyde Auditorium is nicknamed the Armadillo, just like the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. This helped me form an extra connection between the cities for Jason – and the reader.
La Parisienne was a 16-year-old actress in a scandalous painting
By today's modern standards, a woman covered head to not-quite-toe in a stunning blue dress is not much cause for alarm. In fact, she looks demure if not entirely conservative, because that colour will always get a girl noticed.
Yet Henriette Henriot was only sixteen when Renoir painted her, working as an actress at the Odéon theatre. In the painting, she is confident, assured, and removed from the traditional trappings of a woman's life, occupying her own space. One impudent toe sticks out from beneath her dress, and her luscious hair hangs loose.
Renoir made waves when he painted this girl. My thief made waves when they stole her right out of the museum.
There is a UK sand database. Yup, sand.
Professor Ken Pye is a sand expert. His company has an exhaustive collection of sand samples from UK beaches, which forensic investigators can compare to their own trace evidence. These tiny particles can accurately place a person at a specific location, which might be enough to put them away.
Following sand trails becomes a little obsession for my police team – because how did sand get into the gallery where the painting was stolen?
Holyhead Coastguard are good for all your smuggling research
My favourite research gem was from the extremely helpful Holyhead Coastguard.
When asking for assistance with research, it can be very hit-and-miss what you get back. Law enforcement agencies can be understandably reticent about giving you details of how to get away with criminal activity on their watch.
Not my good friends at Holyhead. They not only gave me in-depth intel about what might affect a small craft looking to land on an Angelsey beach, but gave me the perfect secluded spot for my smugglers to glide in unseen...
Title: CAPTCHA Thief
Author: Rosie Claverton
Publisher: Crime Scene Books
Purchase on Amazon
About the Book:
Agoraphobic hacker Amy Lane and her sidekick Jason Carr are swept up in a tortuous and increasingly dangerous adventure following the murder of a security guard at the National Museum of Wales and the theft of a priceless Impressionist painting. As Amy seeks to help track an art thief and Jason seeks to impress the National Crime Agency investigator Frieda Haas sent to recover the missing painting – and its abductor—Jason and Amy become entangled in a perilous web. As the evidence leads Amy and the police in circles, Jason finds himself taking more and more risks in his hunt for the thief. Nothing is as it seems. Are Amy and Jason merely playthings for a vicious murderer? Can they survive the game? The stakes are high, and this game is serious. Dead serious….
About the Author:
Rosie Claverton grew up in Devon, daughter to a Sri Lankan father and a Norfolk mother, surrounded by folk mythology and surly sheep. She moved to Cardiff to study Medicine and adopted Wales as her home. She then moved to London to specialize in psychiatry. Her first short film Dragon Chasers aired on BBC Wales in Autumn 2012. She co-wrote the ground-breaking series of short films The Underwater Realm. Between writing and practicing medicine, she blogs about psychiatry and psychology for writers in her Freudian Script series.