The bestselling crime writer Claire McGowan has released a true crime audiobook - she explains to Weekend what prompted her move to non-fiction
The Vanishing Triangle shines a light on the unsolved disappearance of at least eight women from mid-nineties Dublin; their bodies were never found, and no suspect was ever charged.
In her audiobook for Audible, Claire explores what life was like in nineties Ireland, and investigates how a shifting political landscape and Irish society's views on the treatment of women impacted the investigation.
What brought you to a true crime audiobook?
I had never intended to write non-fiction or true crime, but it came up during a conversation at a crime-writing festival, and I was asked if there were any unsolved cases I was interested in writing about.
Immediately I thought of the Vanishing Triangle cases, which I had learned about while researching my novels a few years before, but which are not widely known in Britain at all.
Can you give an insight into the level of research you needed to conduct?
I researched a lot in the newspapers of the time, read the books that exist on the cases, and spoke to the people involved as much as possible.
I also looked at other cases from the same time, which have not always been linked to those of the 'triangle' disappearances, for various reasons.
What are your memories of 1990s Northern Ireland - and did they shape how you worked on the audiobook?
What I wanted to try and convey was the feeling of being at the same time in danger and also quite safe.
In danger in the sense that we worried a lot about the Troubles, we knew children sometimes got killed, and it was quite normal to see armed soldiers on the streets, even in the rural village where I grew up.
But we also felt safe in the sense that we were allowed to wander and cycle about the countryside, to play outside for hours, and we didn't believe abductions by strangers or non-Troubles murders really happened, although, as these cases show, they did.
Did anything shock or surprise you during your research?
Although I remember the mid-nineties quite well, I was surprised to see just how many massive social changes there had been in Ireland in that period of five years or so, from the divorce referendum to the legalisation of contraception.
I was also a bit shocked when I drew together all the names of murdered and missing women during this time, and realised just how many there were.
In some cases, we know who committed these crimes, and almost always they had a history of violence against women, but were allowed to go free to re-offend, and even kill.
What are your hopes for the audiobook?
I would really like to highlight that these cases are still unsolved, and bring them to a wider, non-Irish audience who might not be as aware of them.
I also wanted to look at the different factors that might have led to the disappearances, and the fact that they remain unsolved, everything from attitudes to sexuality to the failure to prosecute and sentence offenders at an earlier stage.
For you as a writer and reader/listener, what's the benefit of an audiobook?
I love listening to audiobooks with other people, ideally during car journeys. It's interesting to learn new facts and discuss them, which is why I usually prefer to listen to non-fiction books this way. It's also great to listen to them while cleaning, or running, at the gym or just on the endless daily walks.
Are you a true crime fan? What do you listen to?
Like many people, I do find true crime very addictive and compelling.
I think the power of an unsolved mystery is one few of us can resist, and often find myself going down the rabbit hole of internet forums, documentaries, podcasts, and so on.
I enjoy documentaries or podcasts that dissect one case in detail, like West Cork or Serial, and also enjoy true-crime books with a strong personal narrative, like I'll Be Gone in the Dark or The Fact of a Body.
However, I do have to interrogate myself a bit as to why I enjoy these stories so much - is it sensationalism, or can we learn from them too?
Given recent events, it seems more important than ever to raise awareness of female disappearances - would you agree?
The publication of the book has very sadly coincided with the disappearance and murder of a young woman in London, not far from where I live myself.
It has been heartbreaking to see the same debates had over and over as were had in the nineties, and the same victim-blaming and arguments about what women 'should' do to keep themselves safe, when in reality there is nothing we can do that will truly protect us if someone is set on violence.
I hope the book will be able in some way to contribute to these very important discussions.
The Vanishing Triangle by Claire McGowan is available now exclusively on Audible; www.audible.co.uk