With intriguing characters and twist after twist, psychological suspense novel The Sinner completely gripped me. Written by former divorce lawyer Caroline England, this is a powerful story with a fractured marriage at its core.
I recently met up with Caroline over coffee where she told me about her inspiration behind writing The Sinner: “I have these little sparks of ideas…maybe I’ll have an idea of a secret or a twist.” She continued: “The human psyche fascinates me; narcissistic behaviour really intrigues me.”
The Sinner is the story of Dee, the wife of Reverend Vincent Hardy, the local vicar who is adored by his parishioners. As Vincent basks in the adoration, Dee feels insignificant in her role as loyal wife and mother, especially as she has no real control in her marriage. Then Cal enters Dee’s life. She barely remembers Cal from her past, but he definitely remembers her.
The Sinner is a powerful, twisting story full of dark secrets as it explores the themes of control, guilt and sociopathic, psychopathic and narcissistic behaviour. It is also a character driven novel full of raw emotion, which brilliantly drew me in. When I mentioned this to Caroline she said: “I think as a writer you’ve got to really know your characters and pull on the emotion to get the full whack when the twist comes. That’s my personal taste. My novels start a little bit slowly, I’m warming you up but then hopefully wham! You’ll be hit with the full force of the emotional impact.”
When I asked Caroline if her previous career influences her writing she told me yes: “When I did my legal training I practiced mainly in family and criminal law. I used to visit Strangeways Prison, police cells and the magistrate court. That’s where I got a flavour of the crime element. Meeting alleged criminals helped me realise that we all have layers, we’ve all got frailties…And then when I qualified, I specialised in divorce and matrimonial work. It was quite an eye opener as I was only in my mid-twenties, and I was hearing these shocking things that go on between people. So yes, I have drawn on that a lot but obviously not specific cases.”
Referred to as the ‘the Duchess of dark domestic noir,’ Caroline is a prolific author with bestsellers including My Husband’s Lies. Living in south Manchester with her family, Caroline often chooses Manchester and around as the setting for her novels. For example, The Sinner is set in Didsbury, a leafy suburb in Manchester which is where the comedy-drama Cold Feet and other TV shows are filmed. I loved this as I used to live in Didsbury myself and now live only a short walk away from the area, so it’s a place I love and know well.
As well as writing under her own name, Caroline also writes gothic-tinged psychological thrillers under the pseudonym CE Rose. Hearing Caroline talk about these books really makes me want to read them: “They are a similar genre to my other novels, dark domestic noir psychological suspense but with a hint of gothic as the setting becomes a bit of a character. There is also a hint of the supernatural in each one.” The Attic at Wilton Place which I’m now desperate to read is the most recent CE Rose book. This was released in March 2023.
Caroline kindly sent me an advance copy of her next novel, The Stranger Beside Me which is due to be released in August 2023. I’m just over halfway through it, and I’m loving how Caroline is keeping me on tenterhooks. Full of suspense, I am curious about the lives of the intriguing characters within the unnerving atmospheric setting Caroline has crafted.
I am definitely really excited to read more from Caroline and CE Rose. The next on my TBR pile is Truth Games which is described as “Unsettling and oozing with quiet menace…” I can’t wait!