Cynthia Hamilton


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Cynthia Hamilton

The Story Behind the Story: Dominic Piper “Femme Fatale”

Daniel Beckett is an appreciator of women, and not just in a carnal sense, but in every aspect. Whereas the women in “Femme Fatale” are mostly coveted for their physical attributes, Mr. Beckett’s interest in them is genuine and all-encompassing. It may rightfully be said that he’s never met a woman he didn’t find something to admire, or desire, about her.

Aside from being an easy touch with the fairer sex, Beckett possesses many talents that allow him to navigate the seedier side of life and somehow keep an arm’s length from an untimely death. He consumes more alcoholic beverages than any mere mortal possibly could, yet never looses his uncanny ability to sense the danger that continually dogs him. Though his exploits are intense, they manage to retain just a little tongue-in-cheek, even in the throes of orgasmic delights or being thrashed within an inch of his life.

But the main reason the Daniel Beckett series is so fun and compelling is the ingenuity the author employs as he leads us through devilishly twisted plots to very satisfying conclusions. And along the way, we become privy to decidedly unique sleuthing techniques—something I look for as a reader.

It’s my pleasure to give you Dominic Piper’s story behind Femme Fatale:

Femme Fatale is the third novel featuring the London-based private investigator Daniel

Beckett. Beckett is something of a mystery, and readers of these novels have a lot of fun guessing at his background and where he picked up his skills. When I was commissioned to write Kiss Me When I’m Dead (the first Beckett thriller), I wrote a page-long background for the publisher, which gave a lot of detail about his past, but when I came to write the books, I decided that it would be more interesting for the reader (and for me) if this past was kept a little vague. It would be a mystery within a mystery. One reviewer hit the nail on the head when he said: ‘Beckett, however, continues to be an enigma, and the more you find out about him (through his knowledge, amorality and abilities), the more out of reach he becomes. This is the mark of a great fictitious character.’

I particularly like that last sentence.

I suppose part of this characterization is a reaction to the predictability of many characters in film, television and literature. You’re always coming across people who are ex-Navy SEALS or ex-CIA or ex-police or ex-army. I was pretty certain that I wasn’t the only one who was starting to find this a little tedious, so decided to avoid it whenever possible. It’s pretty easy for me to write a character as unusual as Beckett, who doesn’t fit in to the usual PI profile, as I’ve never been a big reader of this genre (I’ve maybe read two or three detective thrillers, if that), and therefore have no precedents clawing their way to the surface. That’s not to say I don’t have my own agendas in these novels. I have pretty strong views about a wide variety of matters and one of them is the treatment of women by arrogant and entitled sexist males, religion and society as whole. People with such outdated attitudes don’t do very well in these books. I’ve always been a great believer in the fact that there are certain things which can be more effectively said in fiction than they can in non-fiction.

Beckett is certainly a libidinous personality, but I don’t think descriptions of him as a womaniser are quite correct. He’s a rather haunted character, and knows that long-term relationships are out of the question for him, and may even put his female companions in danger. As Sayara St Clair noted: ‘But seriously, there are things about Beckett’s thoughts on women that I feel the need to point out. One is that he finds something to appreciate in each of the women he meets. I’m giving him brownie points for that. Also, no matter the women’s career choices, life choices, vices/sexual proclivities etc., Beckett never judges them. Ever. A large number of brownie points right there.’

There were a couple of topics I wanted to deal with in Femme Fatale, and one of them was freemasonry. I’ve only ever met about half a dozen people who I positively knew to be freemasons (most of them surprisingly young) and I was intrigued to find that they were all people that seemed to have rather odd, humourless personalities and were a little too arrogant for my liking. Why was this? What attracts that sort of person to that sort of society? Why do they have to have someone to look up to? Why do they so badly want respect when they often have it in spades in their personal or professional lives? They always defend themselves against their potential for theoretical and actual corruption and will point to their charitable work, but as the assassin Caroline Chow says in Femme Fatale: ‘Huge waste of time. Ready-made mythology. All bullshit. Just add water. Real men wouldn’t bother. If you want to give to charity that badly, write out a cheque, yeah?’

I’d also noticed that the rituals, lodges, secret signs and so on that the Triads favoured bore a striking resemblance to those of freemasonry. Another all-male secret society, but, at the present time at least, mainly criminal (though there are now attempts to drag it back to its patriotic origins). Freemasons can always deny things written about them in factual books (usually blaming ‘disgruntled former members’), but dragging them into fiction is something else altogether. I wanted the freemasons and the Triads to collide in a dramatic way in Femme Fatale, to ask the question ‘who is the most corrupt?’, and for the Triads to demonstrate an internal integrity that the freemasons did not and could not possess, being, certainly in comparison to the Triads, decadent. The factor that linked the two societies in the novel was the world of burlesque; a celebration of strong femininity inhabiting a counter-culture that would be regarded as both alluring and distasteful by the sort of males we come across in the book.

Femme Fatale is about doing the right thing, and to question what the right thing is when it’s outside the law and on the fringes of normal society.

You can find Dominic Piper at:



Until next time,

Happy reading!

Very warmest regards,