Introducing DC Nick Belsey
I discovered Belsey through a process of deduction. I had an opening scene in my head: a detective wakes up on Hampstead Heath with no phone, wallet or police badge; there’s an abandoned squad car nearby which he faintly remembers stealing. He wants out of his life, out of the police, out of London. He has the skills to achieve this. The question for me was: who on earth is this individual? The answer that staggered disruptively into view was Detective Constable Nick Belsey.
Belsey is a Met detective, Hampstead CID: seasoned, popular, with a sharp eye for the details of his city and the psychology of its inhabitants. But the curiosity that makes him a good investigator is the very impulse that leads him astray. In the first novel, The Hollow Man, it leads him into the home of a missing billionaire, a home he decides to make his own while he puts an escape plan together. In Deep Shelter he descends even further into London, into the network of secret cold war tunnels that remain preserved beneath the streets. Now, in The House of Fame, he crashes the world of celebrity, and it proves his darkest exploration yet.
I wanted to write a London detective. London is the city I’ve loved and hated for over three decades without coming close to fully grasping it. The place is a maze in multiple dimensions: a back alley contains centuries; a pub contains a world; a blacked-out Merc contains the future. Police officers are amongst the few individuals who come close to seeing it all, sent to the home of an investment banker in the morning and a crack house in the afternoon, searching for the thread that ties them together.
Belsey’s career belongs to a specific period of time as well. His formative years were spent at Borough Station in the 1990s, a sleazy decade that saw boom-time south east London awash with drugs, clubs and easy money. Belsey’s CID unit dived straight in. His ill-chosen mentors were seduced by their command of both law and crime, day and night. It set a dangerous precedent.
As the dust of that era settled, Belsey found himself washed up, somewhat astonishingly, in Hampstead, a self-styled idyll of London wealth – bohemian, intellectual, superficially charming. Belsey made the posting his own. While he remains an awkward fit in the modern police force, Belsey has experienced no other identity. He is a detective: that curious job that must make meaning out of meaninglessness, that arrives at the mute abyss of a corpse and begins to re-weave the life. I love writing Belsey’s investigations because there is no limit: criminal investigation is a boundless specialism. A case might demand knowledge of anything from printer ink to sexual fetishes to international politics. Nothing is too large, small or odd to be excluded.
I created Belsey because I was curious about someone who has spent their professional life confronting the darkest things, whose thirst for knowledge sometimes becomes simply a thirst, and who has enough intelligence to analyse the ruins of their own life – even if it is entwined with a perverse drive to always make the situation worse.