Monday Mysteries: An interview with Alison Morton’s Jeff McCracken from Double Identity

Mysteries, thrillers, crime novels, who-dun-its,
cosy mysteries
 … real mysteries, historical mysteries…
it’s all a mystery to me!

Q: Now, I believe you’re a character in Alison Morton’s new novel Double  Identity which I thought was a thrilling read! Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role? 

A: Okay. I’m Jeff McCracken, a sergeant at Friars Green Police station in London. I’d just come off undercover and trying to get back into routine when I was called out to look at a hotel murder. God knows why me as it was over in South Ken, but we dealt in diplo, foreign and terrorist cases and I guess I was the nearest available IO – that’s Investigating Officer. The girlfriend had woken up next to the body. Obviously, she was the immediate suspect. What a stroppy French bird she turned out to be!

Friers Green

Lead character? I don’t play second fiddle to anybody. *Fixes Helen with a stern look* Mind you, Mel would give me an argument. Okay, so we’re equal investigators, but with different approaches. Let’s leave it at that.

 [Helen: I wish I hadn’t asked now!]

Q: Moving on… What genre is the novel and what is it about?

A: They call it a crime thriller. I call it my normal day-to-day. Mind you, that’s changed a bit. I was quickly promoted to inspector and then seconded to Brussels to the European Investigation and Regulation Service  – the EIRS – where we had to do a bit of cloak and dagger stuff, so a bit of an espionage thriller as well, I suppose.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)

A: I think I know which side of the law I’m on, Helen. Next question.

[Helen looks down her list of questions wondering what ones not to bother with… and wishes she’s invited ‘The French Bird’ for an interview instead…]

Q: Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner… or maybe your arch enemy!

A: It has to be Mel or, as she said in the snottiest voice ever when I was intending to arrest her, Mélisende Marie Cathérine Elisabeth des Pittones. A right mouthful. Her dad owns a farm and a chateau in Poitou south of the River Loire, but her mum seems quite normal and was born in Kent. Bit of a looker from her photo, her mum. She modelled before she got married to Mel’s dad. Well, Mel herself is pretty attractive… Anyway, Mel joined the French Army at eighteen and went off with their special forces all over the place wherever they speak French. She’s tough, a bit gung-ho sometimes and blooming quick on the uptake, but as I’ve come to know her, she’s a pussy cat inside. Sometimes, she’s a bit sorry for the villains we come across. 

Mel doesn’t know whether she’s French or English and sort of floats in between. Sometimes she doesn’t understand my jokes – she wasn’t brought up here although you wouldn’t think it from how good her English is. Sometimes, she goes a bit over the top emotionally, what I call ‘going French’, but then she took it really hard when her dead fiancé looked like he had a shifty background. I think that’s why she joined the EIRS, so she’d be able to look into his murder. She’s a good colleague, I’ll give you that. Not sure how anything else will develop between us with her being so posh and me from a council estate in east London. We’ll see.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?

A: The author’s writing about our next investigation and says it’ll come out later this year. I think Mel has to face up to some demons from her past. Good luck with that.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?

A: Blimey, where do I start? I’m under strict orders from the author not to give too much away, so here’s an early one:

 ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Mel tipped her chin up, emphasising her long neck and strong jaw. ‘If you’re such a good copper, I suggest you apply your police techniques to finding the real culprit.’

McCracken took a step towards her, so close his clothing almost touched hers. His breath warmed her face, but she stood her ground.

‘Don’t think that I’ll leave it,’ he said in a quiet but tight voice. ‘You’re as guilty as hell. I’ll be back with an extradition warrant after all this nicey-nicey cooperation is done. Then I’ll throw the bloody book at you.’

Q: And your favourite scene?

A: Haha! Not telling. Professionally, it’s always a good feeling when you nick the villain, any villain, to be honest. In Double Identity, there were quite a number of them at different levels, so we had to keep digging for them, one after another.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?

A:  The Roma Nova series of alternative history thrillers where a little bit of the Roman Empire survived, but it’s run by women. There’s eight of them now, plus some short stories. In her time off, I reckon Mel would love to read these as they feature tough women hunting bad guys and sorting the world out. And these new Romans don’t mess about when they see something’s wrong. Bit like the old ones I learnt about at school, but in the now.

Thanks, Sergeant, no, InspectorMcCracken. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

[Helen crosses her fingers hoping he didn’t spot the lie!]

 Would your author like to add a short excerpt and any useful links at the end?


‘I wondered why Billy the Kid in there was being so cooperative about his passwords. He wanted to divert us from that hidden safe.’ McCracken handed Mel a plastic cup of water from the machine in the general office.

‘Billy the Kid? Do you always give people nicknames?’

‘Just a way of talking.’ He looked her up and down.

‘Oh, God, don’t tell me what you call me!’

‘All right, I won’t. Tell you, I mean.’

‘You have a hell of a nerve.’

He grinned at her.

Mel swallowed her water and looked the other way. But she felt warmth rising up her neck. Pure embarrassment.

‘He could just have been terrified of you,’ Mel said after throwing her empty cup in the recycling bin.

‘I’m a pussycat compared with some of the ATU lot.’


He looked at his watch.

‘Where the hell is that locksmith?’

‘Is this him?’ She pointed at the main office door where an officer was checking the ID of a young blond man. He was carrying a square steel toolbox almost half as big as him.

‘Blimey, have they let him out of school for the day?’ McCracken said.

The solemn young man shook hands with them both and followed them back to Duchamps’s office. After peering at the safe from different angles, he knelt down and fished out a circular device that looked like a miniature space telescope. He clamped this onto the front of the lock and ran a thin cable to an LCD screen which he placed on McCracken’s empty chair. He knelt back.

‘Okay, son, how long is this going to take?’ McCracken said.

The young man shrugged. ‘As long as it takes, dad.’

McCracken scowled at him. Mel chuckled.

‘Let’s be adult. Give me an idea.’

‘Could be an hour or two or anything up to twenty hours, even with the autodialler. I’ll leave it to run now. Any coffee around here?’

‘Twenty hours. You are joking,’ McCracken said.

‘So, the first numbers could show up after an hour. You gonna get me a coffee?’

As soon as the young safebreaker was out of earshot making for the tiny kitchen in the company of one of the officers, McCracken jerked his head at Mel to follow him out of Duchamps’s office.

‘Would you mind checking how they’re doing out here? It’s gone seven and I don’t want to keep them here all night.’

‘Good idea.’ Mel smiled at him. Perhaps under all that rough exterior, he did have some fellow feeling for others.

‘It’s not for their benefit. I don’t want to do the paperwork for extra shift hours for a double team from a different force.’

‘You’re all heart, McCracken.’

‘Aren’t I just?’


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Alison writes thrillers featuring tough, but compassionate heroines including her award-winning Roma Nova series which one kind reader called “intelligent adventure thrillers with heart”. Alison puts it all down to her deep love of anything Roman, six years’ military service, a masters in history and an over-vivid imagination.

Now she blogs, reads, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in Poitou Charentes where she lives with her husband and where part of her new thriller Double Identity is set. As she hasn’t much to do, she’s drafting a sequel to that at the same time as her next Roma Nova novel.

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