Karen Millie-James is a writer who I have developed a growing admiration for. Her first novel, The
Shadows Behind Her Smile, rocketed through the charts and soon made her name in crime fiction.
Her lead character, Cydney Granger, is a psychic investigator whose Special Forces husband is Missing In Action. Cydney’s strong paranormal abilities lead her into the dangerous world of corporate crime, while struggling to come to terms with her loss and trying to hold both her family and business together.
Karen’s knuckle-clenching second novel, Where in the Dark, is released tomorrow 4th September and it continues Cydney Granger’s nail-biting adventures.
Karen, why did you specifically choose this particular tale for the second book in the Cydney Granger tales?
The subject of the holocaust is close to my heart as my father was originally from Germany and escaped via the kindertransport in 1939.
I wanted to do justice to his story but, more importantly and for my own peace of mind, I wanted to explore the psyche of the Nazis and why they took the actions they did and in so doing, was it possible for them to ever feel remorse for their crimes against humanity?
I used my characters and their interactions to give me the answers I sought, primarily Albert Whiteman, formerly known as Adolf Weissmuller, who was an escaped Nazi who went to the US after the war and used the monies he had stolen from the Jewish people to fund the bank owned by the family he married into. I gave him a voice but this was purely to understand him and whether he was capable of any feelings toward the people he had harmed years before. My conclusions were heart wrenching but I am convinced that Weissmuller, clearly a psychopath, was completely detached and had no empathy at all; he was simply scared of dying and the fate that awaited him.
I undertook a huge amount of research regarding the history behind the gold that Hitler sought so badly. Gold was the trading commodity between all countries before, during and after the war and the Germans required huge amounts to purchase supplies to aid their war effort.
They particularly used Switzerland, a country not so neutral, who offered them banking concessions and terms of business in return for their country not being bombed. The Jewish people were hated by the Germans but he needed a scapegoat and blamed them for the country’s economic slump; the fact that the Jews numbered amongst the wealthiest and most affluent in society made it easier for him to loot their assets.
Why the title?
To me Where in The Dark reflects the secrecy and lies behind the events depicted in my story, the darkness and the horror that emanated from the actions of the Nazis.
Is this per-chance loosely based on a real-life event?
No, this is not a true story, but it could well be. Many Nazis escaped and integrated themselves into society, pretending to be Swiss for example. Some of the events are true, for example, the journeys made in cattle trucks to the various concentration camps and the fate that awaited the Jewish people - I interviewed two holocaust survivors to hear their amazing stories.
The story of the looted gold and what happened to it was based on a huge amount of research. Some of the conclusions I reached were based on pure speculation but the facts were very much believable, just not proven. I chose to include them in my book to enhance the story on the basis that the reader could make up his/her own mind.
A horde of valuable Nazi artefacts was recently discovered in Argentina, and of course there was the staggering horde of paintings squirreled away by Cornelius Gurlitt. Do you believe we’ll see many other big revelations such as these, or that organizations that sprang from the war might be behind them?
My opinion is that a lot of gold, diamonds, art and artefacts are still hidden away. Many people have looked for hidden Nazi trains full of these items, specifically in Poland but unfortunately the two men had to stop their research due to lack of funding. Who knows what is kept in banks around the world or monies in countries’ federal reserves?
One day everything will come out into the open but I think now is not the time. It is still within a generation and the repercussions would be too immense.
You have a huge interest in corporate crime which really adds flavour to your books, what kindled this?
I love the corporate world which is one that I inhabit and have done for many years. I have an international corporate consultancy and I am familiar with a lot of the stories that I depict in my novels, which makes research so much easier for me; hence the old maxim of writing what you know.
My background in business and banking helps my research as I know where to look and to easily disseminate the information. My protagonist, Cydney Granger, is a woman in a man’s world also and a lot of me is in her character; I put myself in her shoes and the decisions and actions she takes are ones that I would also.
I studied business and languages so writing about corporate affairs was always going to be my subject matter. I absolutely love my work and the adrenalin rush I get when a matter on which I have been working comes to fruition. I suppose I also like the competitiveness and winning.
I love the paranormal element in your novels. Do you believe that many of us have such an ability in
their early years, as some people claim?
I think the ability to connect spiritually is inherent in everyone, but only some to choose to accept and explore this. Children are extremely receptive because of their innocence and their inability to differentiate between what is around them physically and on a spiritual level.
One often hears tales of children having ‘special friends’ and why not because of their openness? Take a picture of a child and you will often see an orb around them because spirits are attracted to them. This, of course, is just my opinion. I wanted Cydney to have this ability, from childhood, and her daughter has inherited this gift, which I use to demonstrate their close relationship.
Cydney accepts her gift and uses it to the better good of her family and clients, and how wonderful that would be if we could all do this. Maybe in a hundred years’ time everyone will be communicating telepathically.
Last, yet leading, question. What’s next for Cydney Granger?
Well, I am not ready to leave Cydney Granger. She is a wonderful character and I intend to continue writing about her life and a new case she is asked to investigate. I have something in mind already and yes, of course, it involves her corporate world and criminal activity. For the moment, I have been asked to write a stand-alone story, which I have already begun. This is called A Thousand Silent Cries and is the story of a psychologist and her downward spiralling relationship with her husband, a top barrister. The genre is still the same, a crime thriller, as what else could or would I write?
Two envelopes. Two holocaust survivors. Two anonymous bearer bonds each worth one million pounds. Corporate forensic investigator, Cydney Granger, with help from beyond the grave, enters a world previously unknown to her to unravel the truth behind a web of secrets, lies, corruption, blackmail and hidden Nazi loot as new horrors of the Third Reich come to light.
Still struggling to come to terms with the apparent death of her husband, Captain Steve Granger, five years’ earlier Cydney puts her personal feelings to one side and is determined to bring to justice an escaped Nazi criminal, Adolf Weissmuller, living under the assumed name of Albert Whiteman, whose son is about to run for the US presidency. Can Albert ever make amends for his crimes against humanity, or are some actions beyond forgiveness?
Will Cydney, along with her trusted and tough protector, former Sergeant, Sean O’Connell, also uncover the truth surrounding her husband?
The consequences of Cydney’s investigations, stretching back before WWII, are far reaching with the potential to bring down a banking dynasty as she faces insurmountable odds from which there is only one final solution.
The dramatic follow-up to The Shadows Behind Her Smile, a compelling debut which takes the reader from the heart of Cydney’s corporate world to the ruins of war-torn Damascus and where men will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.
“There are many people waiting for you,” Ray said, as he joined Cydney in her hotel room.
“Is this what you warned me about?”
“It is, and now I have to tell you again. This will be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It goes beyond this family you're helping.”
“And you? What is your role here?”
“Those people who didn't survive. Those Weismuller murdered, or the ones whose deaths he was responsible for.”
“What do they intend to do? You need to explain to me.”
“Challenge him. You see, they have not moved on and are unable to do so.”
“You mean they’re still here, on the earth plain?”
“Exactly. They are stuck here. You will see and hear things, but remember you are merely a conduit between the two worlds. It is important you take none of their sorrow or hurt into your own body. The pain is not yours, so protect yourself as much as you can. I will be by your side, to guide you, as always.”
“I'll do whatever I need to do.”
The curtains were closed in Cydney’s hotel room and the only light came from a lamp in the corner of the room sitting on a small side table. With her eyes tightly shut, she allowed herself to drift, freeing her thoughts and opening her mind to prepare for whatever or whomever was going to come through. All her strength was focused on protecting herself and placing a complete and impenetrable shield of light equally around her and Ray.
The next time she opened her eyes she found herself transported and looking into the hospital room that held the dying Adolf Weissmuller. It was evident to her he was on the point of leaving for the spirit world as his ethereal body was hovering above him, and she was aware of dark forces surrounding him, waiting for the exact moment of his demise before taking him away to whatever fate awaited him.
Before long, she felt the presence of Sybill and Mordecai next to her. Cydney was hardly aware of the tingling all over her body, the hairs on her arms standing up from the cold, as she was in a cocoon of her own making, her mind concentrating on the task she had been given.
“Thank you.” Sybill was the first to speak as always. The role of her husband, constantly by her side, was solely to protect. She was the appointed spokesperson.
“You never have to say that. I am doing this for you and I want nothing in return.”
“But I do, because now we can confront him. Finally, he will hear our voices. This is our moment. We have been screaming inside for so long. So many years.”