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Big Crime Emmerdale star Lisa Riley is top fan of Sharon Dempsey's latest murder tale

Lisa got in touch with the writer after watching Jimmy Nesbitt drama Bloodlands, when a pal of Sharon’s at Queen’s University recommended her new book on Twitter

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Sharon Dempsey has been signed up for at least two more books

Sharon Dempsey has been signed up for at least two more books

Sharon Dempsey has been signed up for at least two more books

Crime writer Sharon Dempsey has already notched up a celebrity fan for her new book series.

Emmerdale star Lisa Riley was first in line for thriller Who Took Eden Mulligan?, a twisted tale which opens with the discovery of four bodies.

The actor, who plays Mandy Dingle in the ITV soap, has stayed in touch with Belfast author Sharon, who landed a book deal with one of the big five publishers for her northern noir mystery.

Lisa got in touch with the writer after watching Jimmy Nesbitt drama Bloodlands, when a pal of Sharon’s at Queen’s University recommended her new book on Twitter.

“The message was if you liked Bloodlands read this book,” says Sharon. “Lisa liked the tweet and said she couldn’t get the book. It’s only out in Ireland at the moment and the UK and US release is in August.

“We sent it to her through a bookshop and she’s put a picture up of it and she’s messaged me and been really lovely about it.”

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Emmerdale’s Lisa Riley asked for a copy of Sharon’s new book

Emmerdale’s Lisa Riley asked for a copy of Sharon’s new book

Emmerdale’s Lisa Riley asked for a copy of Sharon’s new book

Sharon has tapped into Northern Ireland’s Troubles history to create the new crime series featuring forensic psychologist Rose Lainey and DI Danny Stowe.

Avon Harper Collins signed her up for two books with an option for more and she sees a bright future for the new pairing.

The book opens in a rundown cottage outside Lisburn which a group of friends have been renting, and it’s a bloodbath. A girl runs to the police station and says, ‘they’re dead and I did it.’

“Pretty quickly we find out she couldn’t have done it, and on the fireplace wall is ‘who took Eden Mulligan?’ a disappeared mother from the eighties in the Markets.

“Rose and Danny have to work out what Eden Mulligan has to do with this present-day murder scene and their investigation gets roped in with a historical cold case.”

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She says it’s not linked to any of the Disappeared, who were murdered and secretly buried by the IRA, but as a 51-year-old who grew up in Belfast it’s impossible not to be affected by the conflict.

“I don’t think anyone can live through the Troubles without being influenced by certain cases or stories. When a mother has disappeared what has been left behind and how does that affect people?”

The former journalist and health writer, who has published three novels including standalone thriller Little Bird, says her own writing journey started with personal tragedy.

She lost son Owen at just six from a brain tumour, and says writing helped her make sense of her emotions following the family loss.

Sharon started working with Cancer Focus to help adults with creative writing as a way through treatment and loss.

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Sharon Dempsey's book

Sharon Dempsey's book

Sharon Dempsey's book

“The darkness of crime fiction appealed to me as a safe place for me to explore what I was feeling.

“I taught creative writing for Cancer Focus, where we had people coming in who were on treatment or had had treatment or who had lost someone, but they didn’t want to talk about it. It gives you a break from your mental trauma.”

She says women writers are emerging to claim their place as northern noir writers with the support of local authors like Anthony Quinn, Stuart Neville and Brian McGilloway.

Anna Burns won the Man Booker Prize with Belfast-set Milkman, and Claire Allan, Claire McGowan, Kelly Creighton and Catriona King are all established Northern Ireland thriller writers, but they haven’t been as celebrated as female crime authors in Ireland.

Sharon, who’s working on a PhD in Queen’s, hopes that her new crime duo will find an audience and sees up to eight books with them.

“My editor in Harper Collins is so invested in this series and I’ve got the next four mapped out. I have lots of stories for them,” she says.

Who Took Eden Mulligan is out now, published by Avon Harper Collins.

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