I can see her through the glass door. She’s smaller in real life than I expected. She looks the exact opposite of the type of woman that might murder her husband.
Everyone’s heard of Simone Fischer. The young mother accused of killing her husband in cold blood, one sunny afternoon, while their son played in the room next door.
So when journalist Esme secures an exclusive interview with her it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. Simone has remained silent since her husband’s death but after a decade in prison, she is willing to talk to Esme. And Esme, recently freed from her own toxic marriage, is confident she can get Simone to open up.
At their first meeting, when Esme sees Simone sitting across the table from her in jeans and a lemon tunic top, she is stuck by her ordinariness. Then Simone begins to tell her story of an abusive relationship where she was a prisoner in her own home, and Esme decides that the truth needs to come out.
But not everyone is pleased that Esme is telling Simone’s story. And when Esme’s beloved sister is left for dead in a nearby wood, Esme’s life begins to unravel. Forced to question what Simone has told her, she can’t help but wonder if murder was the only way out of Simone’s marriage. Why has it taken Simone so long to tell the world the truth? And will the consequences be devastating for Esme?
After years of trying to get published and never getting further than the slush pile, Kim went back to Nottingham Trent University at the age of 40 where she gained a first-class honours degree in English & Creative Writing and an MA in Creative Writing .
Although she also had a day job during the five years she studied at university, the courses gave Kim the time and space to try different writing and increased her confidence and belief in her writing and before graduating she had already received five offers of representation from London literary agents.
She first became published writing Young Adult fiction for Macmillan Children’s Books under the name Kim Slater, although she now writes adult psychological thrillers under her pseudonym K.L. Slater.
Kim is now a full-time writer and lives with her husband in a small Nottinghamshire village.
Visit Kim at her website
Follow Kim on Twitter
Connect with Kim on Facebook
“Simone Fischer, is a British woman serving a long sentence for the murder of her abusive husband and Esme Fox, an investigative podcast journalist. As the character of Simone developed, I began to research women who kill and became interested in exploring how society and the justice system often view and treat women accused of violent crime in contrast to men… I read about cases where there was strong evidence of chronic psychological abuse and/or violence, and yet the victims were charged and convicted of murder as opposed to manslaughter… The thing about control, particularly coercive control, is that the traumatised victim (usually female) doesn’t necessarily recognise what’s happening to her and can’t always articulate why she killed her partner.
In The Evidence, Simone Fischer talks about her own experiences at the hands of her abusive husband, Grant. I wanted to underline the concept of this ‘invisible’ control and have the main character, Esme, slowly becoming aware that she may also have been subject to manipulation and control in her own marriage.
This book is set in Nottinghamshire, the place I was born and have lived all my life. Local readers should be aware I sometimes take the liberty of changing street names or geographical details to suit the story”
Extract taken from “A letter from K.L. Slater”, which is available to read in full at the end of the book
ONE – THE FISCHER FILES
EPISODE ONE – MEETING SIMONE
I’m speaking to you from outside HMP Bronzefield women’s prison on the outskirts of Ashford in Middlesex. Now, this place is a bit of a groundbreaker as far as prisons go. It was built 2004 as a women only facility but you won’t find any Victorian gloom here or Gothic towers. The building is clean-looking, modern.
But make no mistake, this is a Category A facility for adult female offenders.
I’m about to go inside and speak to Simone Fischer, one of the inmates here. You might well have heard Simone’s name before. She’s a fifty-two-year-old British woman who, ten years ago, was convicted at the Old Bailey of the brutal murder of her husband of twenty years, Grant Austin Fischer.
Fischer has always maintained a strict silence, refusing even to give evidence at her own trial and has completely blocked any media visits. Until now.
For the first time ever, Simone has agreed to break her silence and tell ‘The Speaking Fox’ the true story… in her own words.
This week marks Simone’s tenth year of an eighteen-year sentence behind bars. Today we’ll finally begin to discover the full, true story of what happened that fateful night in 2009.
“You asked about death? Well, not once did I consider he might go before me, I thought… I honestly thought he would eventually kill me. Or that I would kill myself because of him. I was so far gone it never occurred to me I had a choice in the matter”
“I see it all the time. People will readily accept violence from men if they’re pushed to their limits, but a woman? She’s just expected to keep taking it and never complain. It’s an attitude rooted in our society”
“His reactions were at the centre of my world and I was completely absorbed in just getting through the day on that basis”
“This was a wretched place that most people would never get to see. Lucky them. Hope didn’t feel that strong here, but fear loomed large”
“There are a thousand ways to control or be controlled.” Simone gave a sad smile. “We put our faith in out partner, our friend, a close relative, We want to believe they are good and true and so we do. We run with that. Then suddenly we can’t see what’s around us anymore; we can’t spot the signs. We’re blind to anything other than what they place right in front of our eyes and tell us is the truth.”
“You can’t accept that people have their own lives… you can’t accept your way is not always the best way.’ The words bled out of her. “You try to control every last detail in your life, including the people around you, because if not… well, you’d have to stand back and look at yourself, wouldn’t you? See you’re far from perfect, see that you don’t always know best. Could you cope with that? I don’t think so.”
“I felt an electric bolt shoot through me, and I knew, in that moment, I probably wouldn’t be able to fully trust another human being again”
“A devoted wife or a dangerous killer”
Why, after having already published over a dozen psychological thrillers, have I only just discovered this amazing author, and how quickly can I clear spaces in my schedule to begin catching up with the back catalogue?
Whilst the premise does pose some tantalising questions, it has been quite cleverly crafted so as not to give away too many ‘spoilers’, so now my challenge is to make sure that I don’t inadvertently ‘let the cat out of the bag’, so to speak!
Esme has recently decided that she and her nine-year-old son Zachary will be better off living apart from her husband Owen, although as yet it is still an informal separation of which Zachary does not approve. Esme has set up her own small Podcast company ‘The Speaking Fox’, along with her sister Michelle, friend Justine, Mo her trusted techie, and newbie to the team Toby. Michelle has moved in with Esme and Zachary, for moral support and to help out with the domestic logistics, as Zachary is still recovering from a horrendous hit and run incident, which has left him permanently lame and in pain in one leg, and still totally traumatised by the experience.
‘The Speaking Fox’ has just received a prestigious contract to exclusively interview Simone Fischer, who is serving a lengthy prison sentence for the murder of her husband, committed whilst her then, young teenage son Andrew, was in the house. Grant Fischer had been gaslighting and mentally coercing his wife for years, until one day, ten years ago, now isolated from any personal relationships with family or friends, thanks to Grant’s insidious lies and manipulation, Simone had snapped – or had she? Esme is hoping that the Podcast will help get Simone’s case re-opened, in the light of recent changes to the laws surrounding coercive and abusive behaviour and a hitherto silent Simone, seems only too happy to co-operate in a series of open and candid interviews, which Andrew apparently does not object to, as he can remember little of the events leading up to that fatal day – or does he? Simone’s brother Peter, is however, a little less than happy with the situation, as he is preparing to write his own book about events surrounding Grant’s death and Simone’s lengthy prison sentence, and doesn’t want Esme stealing his thunder. In fact, Simone is so at ease when discussing Grant’s manipulative behaviour and lies towards her, she at one stage even goes so far as to offer Esme advice and support, so much so that eventually I was forced to consider whether it was Simone or Esme who was truly the victim of the piece.
In fact, it is probably true to say that the book very much began as one where the spotlight seemed to be very firmly focussed on the coercive and controlling behaviour of men. However, as the storyline progressed, I did begin to wonder whether mental abuse, dominance and debasement, can solely be attributed to men, or if the same behaviour traits are equally prevalent in women. Pay special attention to the words and actions of Simone, and Esme’s mother-in-law Brooke, and I’m sure you might agree with me!
Everything begins really well and the first Podcast instalment is a runaway success. But then, in a series of seemingly unrelated incidents, both the company and Esme’s personal life, take a spectacular turn for the worse and ‘normal’ as everyone knows it, will never be the same again. Esme has no idea who she can trust anymore, including her friends and family alike, leaving her feeling totally isolated, vulnerable and a complete emotional wreck; making her easy prey for those who she does not realise, wish her nothing but harm. In fact, just to prove how off the mark I was in my thinking about so many aspects of this storyline, the one person I had thought might be the cause of so many of the company problems, turns out to be something of a shoulder for Esme to lean on and with their help, the business might possibly be salvaged. However when the dust settles on a few weeks that seem like a lifetime and which no one will ever forget, Esme once again needs to re-evaluate her own and Zachary’s personal futures in light of the wreckage which is all that remains of their former selves.
I realise that doesn’t give you much to go on, however there are so many twists in this gripping and disturbing, swiftly evolving, multi-layered storyline, that to write anything else would be sure to give the game away to some degree. The immersive writing is crisp and fluent, with the wonderfully textured story being narrated in multiple voices, interspersed seamlessly with some Podcast conversation/interview segments, which despite my scepticism as this was a first for me, actually worked really smoothly.
Whilst the storyline does command two diverse locations, Esme only makes the journey down country to Middlesex, on the days when she is due to interview Simone in prison. The focus of events actually has quite a small footprint in Nottinghamshire, although enough detail is casually dropped in, so that I could actually picture some of the locations and their relationship to one another, as a demented Esme criss-crosses the county maniacally, in her futile attempts to stay on top of an ever deteriorating situation.
There were three major “Wow! I never saw that coming!” moments and as you might expect, they all featured in the second half of the book, after the opening chapters were spent in carefully setting the scene with all those sneakily laid red herrings, which did exactly what they were supposed to do, tripping me up and sending my thoughts off at the wrong tangent every time. This was a story built on lies, secrets, buried emotions and manipulated versions of the truth. No matter where Esme is, the atmosphere seems thick with tension, as if she somehow manages to suck all the oxygen out of a space, with her permanent aura of impending dread and menace, which is emotionally draining.
What can I possibly say about the characters which might somehow redeem them, or restore my faith in their humanity? – and in all honesty I think my answer is, absolutely nothing! Not one single thing about this volatile cast made them compelling, easy to connect with, or want to invest in. There was not even any good synergy between them, only mistrust and an overwhelming tendency towards duplicitous and manipulative behaviour, which at this particular time all seemed to be directed at Esme, although she herself is such an emotionally complex person, that believing in her, despite her obvious fragility of mind, was quite difficult and challenging, even though it was clear that she doted on her son Zachary.
If all the previous novels are as good as this one, then I am in for one heck of a journey, as I seek to play ‘catch-up’!
A complimentary kindle download of this book, for review purposes, was made available by the publisher Bookouture and supplied by NetGalley.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!
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