Elisabeth Sharman was making a clean break. New city, new job. Getting away from a toxic relationship she hoped she was leaving behind. Unfortunately it meant leaving behind good friends as well, but she wasn’t moving so far away she would never see them again.
Also unfortunately, she isn’t given the chance for a settling in period with the new job. On day one as a senior solicitor with the Australian Capital Territory Legal Aid Office she’s handed the case of a 19 year old amnesiac accused of murder.
How do you defend someone who can’t remember the crime?
With difficulty, is the answer. With even more difficulty when the case exposes things about herself she would rather keep hidden from her very perspicacious instructing solicitor, Robert Murphy.
But Elisabeth isn’t the only one with a secret. The victim’s wife has a whopper of her own. Elisabeth knows hers will eventually become known. The wife wants to obliterate hers from existence.
Amazon review by John L Work: “It’s difficult to decide where to begin with Automaton. This is an exemplary novel by a master of the craft. Set in Australia, it is so deep, so well written, so intelligently thought out and flows so smoothly that I felt like a participant and personal observer within the events.”
Amazon review by Angie Russell: “If you are looking for a book that has a great storyline, deep characters, action and intrigue, you need to read this. In Automaton the author draws the reader in with descriptions so vivid you feel as though you are living the book.”
Amazon review by RL Bailey: “I love reading a great mystery. I love it even more if I can’t figure it out by chapter three. Well, Automaton by Alana Woods has that and a whole lot more!”
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was working as a court reporter at the time spending most of my days watching criminal trials, and the thing that affected me most was watching the families of those on trial, especially families new to the experience. They were frightened and lost. The idea for the story grew gradually. I wondered how it would pan out if the person on trial was as frightened and lost as his family. And naturally I felt the story would need to explore the motivations and feelings of the lawyers assigned to defend him. I did a lot of research including interviewing the heads of Legal Aid and the Director of Public Prosecutions to get a feel for how they would handle such a case. They read the finished novel and were nice enough to say I’d captured it.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
It’s the same with all my novels, I begin with the kernel of the story and the main characters just seem to suggest themselves. Secondary characters make themselves known as the story develops.
It wasn’t his appearance that unnerved her, unexpected though it was with its neat new track runnelling the middle of his chin, curving through cheek and across the outer corner of his right eye to disappear into the hairline. It wasn’t even that they were alike in colouring and delicacy of features.
It was his expression. A mixture of hope and no hope.
He was red-haired, fresh smooth skinned, freckled with a faded tan, 19, and not far from the trial of his life.
He sat straight-backed, knees wide, hands hanging, in a hard chair in front of a square metal table and looked at her. Straight at her. What was she going to do for him? What could she do for him? The question was there. In his eyes. And she thought the answer just as probably was in hers. But she said, ‘I want to help you.’
His feet shoved wide, forcing hers back under her chair. ‘They’ve all said that.’ His hair was back-brushed and short. The deeply burnt freckles merged like a birthmark coating his nose and cheekbones. ‘What makes you any different?’
‘I believe you.’
A supercilious mask disguised fright, and vulnerability. He snorted. ‘That I didn’t do it?’
‘No. That you can’t remember.’
Again reaction was distorted. She rubbed a hand up the back of her neck, feeling the unfamiliar rasp of a newly razored hair-line.
‘Because the man’s wife says she saw you do it. Why lie?’
‘So you think I’m guilty?’
‘You don’t think you are.’
She forgot her hair and pulled her feet forward. It was her turn to ask ‘Why?’
He moved his away. ‘Because I can’t imagine doing it.’ He thrust himself over the table, hands clasping, eyes like a green rush of spring.
She had to swallow. ‘Then we need to have a look at who did, don’t we?’
He sat considering, then eased himself away, leaving his hands on the table. ‘Why can’t you do it?’ He spoke to the third person in the room.
Robert Murphy moved for the first time since introducing them. ‘I don’t have the experience that Elisabeth does.’
‘But she doesn’t know anything.’
Robert Murphy spoke persuasively, his voice a soft baritone burr. ‘I’m going to help.’
Elisabeth watched, with short and widely spaced breaths through the nose punctuated by a thudding in the chest.
‘Why can’t we wait until Mr Beaumont recovers?’
Robert hunkered down directly beside the young detainee. ‘Russell, I’ve told you; he had a major heart attack yesterday. It’s going to take him a long time to get well.’ He put his hand over the boy’s wrist. ‘Don’t you want it over and done with? Surely you don’t want to stay here any longer than you have to.’
Their heads were very close.
‘No.’ The voice was almost a whisper. ‘But I don’t want to be where they’ll put me afterwards either.’ He took a deep breath, an uneven intake.
Hello, I’m Alana Woods, the Intrigue Queen. Why? Because I write thrillers that people say go deeper, are more satisfying and pique their curiosity much more than other thrillers they’ve read. They also say they love my characters because I get into their heads, so by the time they’ve finished reading they feel they really know them. They say the stories and characters haunt them long after they finish reading.
The ideas for my two published thrillers, AUTOMATON and IMBROGLIO, were sparked by jobs I’ve had. IMBROGLIO from several years I spent working as a publications typist at a weapons research establishment and AUTOMATON from five years as a court reporter. And you know what the experts say: write what you know!
I was born in Leicester UK but moved to Australia when I was just four with my family. My father fought in India and Burma in WWII and couldn’t take the cold when he returned to England, so he upped stakes and moved us all to the warmth of Adelaide, South Australia. I now live in Australia’s national capital, Canberra, also affectionately known by the locals as The Bush Capital because it’s out in the sticks and is forested with native eucalypts. It’s a lovely spot.
If you decide to take a punt and read any of my books I’d love for you let me know what you thought by way of a review. I also love to hear personally and you can do that via my website contact page.
Have you read this book or others by this author? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!