Michael Northey is an active Kent County Councillor to around 13000 constituents, a position he has held since 2005. Before this, he taught English and Latin in a secondary school. He currently lives in Canterbury with his wife. Upon the release of his new book Shake Hands or Die, he shares with us his top tips for crime writing. 

Michael Northey

Michael Northey

Keep it cosy

Put in nice things like guilt-free food, eccentric and lovable characters, lovely homes and places, happy walks in the rain, friends and parties. Even horrible things like murder get sorted and the good things are always there. Include love and romance.


The novel is meant to be fun. In the end harmony is restored. People are endlessly interesting and amusing. They still do funny things and most people are basically good.

Don't dwell on gruesome details

Dark and gritty crime novels do that. Here just show there's been a murder. If you concentrate too much on nasty details, people will think about that and not the healing of the situation.

Don't copy other famous authors

Don't imitate a famous best-selling author like Agatha Christie. Be yourself. Tell your own story. I have a fridge magnet which says: Be yourself, everyone else is taken. That way you will succeed.

Don't lecture, just tell a story

If you want to tell people not to be unkind at work, don't go lecturing your readers. Just show what happened when someone was unpleasant. You can have a lot of fun showing them getting their come-uppance.  You can include important issues, but have a light touch. Don't preach about the role of modern women. My novel simply shows a lot of strong female characters in various roles. People will get the message.

Don't directly put real people into your novel and don't use it to settle scores

If your real-life female boss of 52 in finance is bullying you into working lots of extra unpaid hours, change her into a fictional young male boss of 34 who is aggressively making his own career in marketing. Just tell the story of what happens. Avoid libel and keep your job. You'll feel happier.

Have a great list of suspects

The more the merrier. Give them all good reasons for the murder. Keep your readers guessing. At the end pick an unlikely one but show how it was inevitable and could not have been anyone else.

Put in cliffhangers

At the end of every chapter or section put in a cliffhanger or development or twist which means the reader just has keep reading to find out what happens. Your aim is to make people want to read just another chapter before going to sleep at night!

Write it your way

Some writers plan the whole novel top to bottom and only then start writing. Many others, including me, write a chapter, with a twist at the end. Next day you just have to come back and write on, to find out what happens next.Your story is more likely then to make the reader want more. You've been there yourself.

Leave your reader happy; good wins over evil

Show that even nasty things can be sorted, life goes on and the world is basically a good place. The cosy crime novel is consoling and redemptive. Leave your reader comforted and happy.