Inappropriate Behaviour : A Novel
When a stranger’s mistake tells you more about yourself than the mirror in your own bathroom…
An English schoolteacher is on the run in France with a teenage pupil in tow.
And Val is a witness to their escape with a decision to make.
Val and Bobby, Bobby and Val …
Has she believed in him for too long?
Are her friends too good to be true?
Is the story of Widow Merel just too scary to swallow?
From the secret corners of rural France to the striking coastline of Dorset, Inappropriate Behaviour fuses psychological drama with haunting elements of a ghost story in a modern novel exploring how far trust can be stretched before it snaps.
WHAT LIES BETWEEN TRUST AND BETRAYAL?
BETWEEN FORGIVENESS AND REVENGE?
During the autumn and winter of 2019-20 I worked on a new novel, one that is a development of the short story Runaways which I wrote in 2012. This was a twist on the real life case of British maths teacher Jeremy Forrest who abducted a 15-year-old pupil, his girlfriend, and headed to the south of France with her. As a former teacher I was curious to consider the mind-set of someone who must know that their actions will jeopardise or more likely destroy a career that presumably was dear to them, not to mention the effect on the child.
In my story the teacher is female and the pupil is a 16-year-old boy. They are hiding in plain sight on a campsite in an unremarkable town in the Sologne region of central France and are spotted, and recognised, by an English resident of the town who suddenly has a decision to make: to cheer them on or give them up. Even when I was writing Runaways I remember thinking that the most interesting character was indeed Val, the witness. What I have done in the novel is tell her story, both before and after the encounter with the teacher.
The Sologne, a quiet area of forests, lakes and mists south of the Loire, is the setting for much of the narrative, although the story's climax takes place in England, and notably on the dramatic coastline of Dorset. The preference in France for renovation rather than demolition and rebuilding makes it easier to imagine life in rural villages as it was eighty years ago. As with An English Impressionist, I wanted to give Val’s surroundings their particular sense of history and in this case the reference point was the German occupation and the activities of the local members of the Résistance in the year 1942. The story of Widow Merel allowed me to give historical depth to the novel, to introduce the imperative of history (and betrayal) repeating itself and, just as importantly, to heighten its dramatic potential.
Inappropriate Behaviour is my fifth novel and the first to have a female character at its heart. My other books all feature strong and significant women, notably Erika Fleet, Geena Dale, Columbine Snow, Amande Puybonieux and Mally Shore but each of them is to some extent presented as a foil for the words and deeds of a male protagonist. Finally, perhaps belatedly, I offer the reader a woman to follow, to support, sympathise with, worry about, get angry with and maybe forgive.