The drive from Dublin to Galway on a spring day provided a chance to unwind, after a particularly busy and intense eight-month contract, working with a financial institution. I was now a few months into a very different contract – ghostwriting a book. It was a shared interest in writing that had led to correspondence with Helen Noble. Now, through a mutual friend, we were about to meet for the first time.
Beyond Galway City, the expanse of the Connemara Mountains and lakes, the winding roads leading to Roundstone, almost devoid of traffic, was an invitation to breathe and relax. The ‘road’ onto the island of Inishnee, was another matter. The ‘motorway’ was the ‘ice-breaker’ when we met and provided much laughter on subsequent journeys to and fro! Helen and her husband had travelled in the rugged security of a jeep. I wasn’t sure if my car had survived the jaunt across boulders and craters to the most westerly tip of the island. It didn’t matter. We were soul-sisters, reuniting after a long exile on different islands.
Helen is a mother and a psychology graduate with experience of working in the criminal justice system, I am a mother and a psychotherapy graduate with experience of working in adult education. We share an interest in art, Helen in photography, I in painting. Both of us had been beavering away in the background, writing, frustrated by the inability to bring any of our own work to publication stage.
That was almost ten years ago. Last week saw the release of Helen’s fourth novel, ‘Deeds of the Devil’ – the first in the crime genre.
Described by one reviewer as ‘a ripping good yarn and a highly satisfying mystery’ and by another as ‘a dark triumph, the perfect marriage of film noir and literary fiction that fans of Mary Shelley, Alfred Hitchcock, psychological thrillers, and those who like a little more literary with their mysteries, will love.’ With many more reviews in the same vein, ‘Deeds’ looks set to make it to the bestseller list.
It is a fascinating story with unusual depth and insight. Knowing Helen and her background, I am not surprised. Nevertheless, her deftness – on a par with any Agatha Christie – in weaving a web of mystery and intrigue never fails to leave me gobsmacked.
From the publication of her debut novel, ‘Tears of a Phoenix’, I have watched Helen’s star rise. As Stephen Russell (The Barefoot Doctor) has said, “She fearlessly explores the dark underbelly of the human condition, providing both a deeper understanding and uplifting hope for humanity”.
‘Tears of a Phoenix’, is a story that begins with a murder, followed by the near-death experience of the protagonist, a drug-dealer and thug who appears to be beyond redemption. But during his subsequent incarceration, serving a life sentence, a fellow prisoner introduces him to his Ghanaian culture and Ghanaian roots, playing an unusual role in an unusual story that is a spell-binding read to the end. Helen’s writing is described by one reviewer as ‘flowing like rushing rapids through a rocky riverbed’ and that is says it all.
Helen’s dazzling versatility as a writer shone through in the first book in a totally different genre – contemporary romance.
‘The 49th Day’ is my favourite. The review describes it as having ‘undertones of medieval history and a spiritual twist, woven with ancient Welsh mythology and timeless Irish humour. ‘The 49th Day’ is the first in a trilogy of novels weaving together the past, present and future lives of Katherine Walsh and the powerful men who seek to control her. Based around the Buddhist notion of reincarnation, the story unfolds to reveal the events of the first seven weeks of her unexpected pregnancy. Coincidences in her past and present lives become clear as she grapples with the current stranglehold on her life and contemplates her future as the custodian of the soul of her unborn child’. It is the first in another trilogy (Helen does things in multiples!) and I am chomping at the bit, waiting for the next installment of Katherine’s story.
Her third publication, ‘Scorpio Moons’ went with another friend of mine on holiday to Lanzarote. I’m not sure if her fellow holiday-makers had much interaction with her, because she was ‘missing’ for long periods; hopelessly and blissfully absorbed in ‘Moons’, ‘the forbidden glimpse into the interior of the lives of those among us that casts a silvery light into the darkest corners, illuminating their secret desires, revealing their indulgences and highlighting the drama of their deeds’.
Deep stuff. Brilliant writing. Food for thought. Top class entertainment. All accomplished while being involved in the running of a legal practice and mothering three children.
Many congratulations, Helen! Here’s to Inishnee – to at least one movie deal, and to many more years of friendship.