Please welcome author Rosemary McCracken to the blog today as she explains why she writes financial mysteries.
One Sleuth’s Bottom Line by Rosemary McCracken
When I decided to write my first mystery novel, I had been writing articles about personal finance for a number of years. As a financial journalist, I had interviewed scores of financial planners and investment managers. I’d attended their conferences. I understood the issues they faced. There was, and still is, a huge concern about the bad apples in their industry: the bent advisors and investment managers. The financial services industry revolves around money, so it provides opportunities for those clever and greedy enough to challenge the system.
Those issues certainly got a reaction from me. I was horrified when I heard about Bernie Madoff, the New York money manager who swindled his clients out of $65 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme. And we had scumbags in Toronto, the city where I live. One of them, a Bay Street advisor, operated a classic confidence scam. He’d get close to his older, wealthier clients, dazzle them with his interest and concern. Then he’d sell them bogus stocks and drain their bank accounts. I knew how I’d feel if I had been one of his victims.
This was the fuel I needed as an author. A topic that would resonate with me for the months—and years—it takes to complete a novel. I decided to make the central character of my mystery novel a financial planner. Before long, my protagonist, Pat Tierney, took shape in my mind. She believes convicted financial scamsters get off too easily. She wants to see tougher penalties, prison terms and hefty fines. And what really makes her blood boil is the crooks who go after decent, ordinary people who’ve worked hard to pay off their mortgages and put away money for their retirement. When these folks get ripped off, Pat gets hopping mad.
So I started to write a financial thriller, although at the time I’d never heard of financial thrillers. But I soon discovered a number of authors who were writing in this sub-genre. Their books are popular because everyone understands the lure of easy money: we’re all attracted by it and some people will do anything to get it. Most of us have fantasized about what our lives would be like if we won a big lottery or received a surprise inheritance. Easy money. Money we didn’t have to work hard for.
Most of us are content to keep our money fantasies as fantasies. The few of us who aren’t go on to commit financial crimes. Rob banks. Skim money from clients’ investment accounts. Steal personal information in order to write cheques and take out mortgages and credit cards in another person’s name.
Some people will even murder for money.
As an amateur sleuth with a financial background, Pat Tierney recognizes the red flags for fraud, money laundering and other financial crimes. Not surprisingly, they turn up in her mystery novels, and they’re all crimes that you and I can fall prey to. Uncharted Waters, her most recent adventure, features a nasty scam to defraud homeowners.
I’ve heard readers say, “Oh, financial stuff is boring. I don’t understand it, and I don’t want to.” Well, some financial thriller writers get into the nitty-gritty of market trades and insider details, but the best writers make their characters’ worlds accessible to all readers. They make their stories human with colorful, relatable characters with distinct voices. I stay away from too much financial jargon and the dry details of investing. Financial planning is Pat Tierney’s work, but I keep it on the back burner. Pat knows that money isn’t about figures on a spreadsheet or the intricacies of an investment portfolio. Money is about people—the young couple saving to buy their first home, the older couple worried that they may outlive their savings. And, of course, Pat knows that some people can never have enough money.
As a journalist, I wrote articles about many of the financial crimes that Pat encounters. Now, I often look up the people I interviewed for these articles, and ask them more questions. But my research largely tends to be in other areas. I’ve attended refugee hearings to find out what happens when displaced people apply for asylum in Canada. I’ve talked to scene-of-the-crime officers to learn what police do at different types of crime scenes. I’ve talked to forensic cleaners—people who clean up crime scenes.
Welcome to the world of Pat Tierney.
Rosemary McCracken ©2020Rosemary McCracken lives, writes and teaches writing in Toronto, Canada. Her four Pat Tierney mysteries—Safe Harbor, Black Water, Raven Lake and Uncharted Waters—are available on Amazon. “The Sweetheart Scamster,” a Pat Tierney short story published in Thirteen, was a Derringer Award finalist in 2014.