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RGU takes centre stage in debut crime novel by forensic sleuth


A world-renowned forensics expert who has worked on high-profile cases across the UK has his debut crime novel, which is set in the north-east of Scotland, published this week.

Professor Dave Barclay book launchProfessor Dave Barclay, a senior lecturer at Robert Gordon University’s School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, has finished ‘Everyone Lies’ which sees the institution take centre stage in a fast-paced action thriller.

The novel is the first of a multi-book deal signed by Professor Barclay (68) and was created in conjunction with award-winning crime author Margaret Murphy under the pseudonym A.D. Garrett.

‘Everyone Lies’ follows Professor Nick Fennimore, a failed genetics student, a successful gambler and toxicology specialist who now lectures in forensic science at Robert Gordon University (RGU). He is approached by DI Kate Simms who is working on her first murder case.

Tension rises as the case rapidly becomes more complex, with Fennimore uncovering connections to a series of drug importations and other murders.  Simms also encounters obstruction from within her force and it gradually emerges that there is a link between the drug dealers and a senior police officer.

Professor Barclay said: “I’m extremely proud to have our first A D Garrett novel published which is the culmination of countless hours of work and research by Margaret and I. We have forged an excellent partnership with Margaret as writer and myself leading on plot and all the technical details. We are able to bounce ideas off one another and share our experiences throughout the writing process.”

Professor Barclay, who was formerly Head of the UK National Crime and Operations Faculty (NCOF) and a scientific advisor to the UK Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry into Forensic Science, was approached by literary agency Curtis Brown in 2010 after delivering a lecture at a national crime writer’s conference.

When he expressed doubts about having either the time or the ability to write, the agency introduced him to Margaret Murphy and subsequently facilitated a contract with leading independent publishers Constable & Robinson.

There are a number of parallels between the fictional story and Professor Barclay’s own experiences as an academic and a regular advisor on live murder cases across the UK. He said: “Fennimore is based at RGU and all of the details about the facilities available to the forensics department and its ethos are realistic – in fact the novel begins in a lecture theatre in the university’s St Andrew Street building. However that is where the real life similarities end as the plot begins to twist and turn towards its dramatic conclusion.

“Fennimore is someone who enjoys puzzles and drawing inferences, devising hypotheses to prove or disprove later. He’s a creative person and has a very strong work ethic once he has started something. He tends to synthesise unusual solutions from what seem to be unconnected facts, but always goes back to prove them logically later on. Unlike most scientists, Fennimore is ruled by the creative side of his brain. For example, his tastes in 1960s and 70s folk rock music and reading emerge in casual asides throughout the novel."

Professor Barclay’s role in the writing partnership with Margaret Murphy was to create the plot and characters, and infuse the writing with his significant experience of forensic science and its application to crime scene investigation. As such a strong element of his teachings and forensic science principles appear throughout the book, positioning it as an equivalent to police procedural novels.

Professor Barclay has worked on some of Britain’s highest profile murder cases and alleged miscarriages of justice including the Bloody Sunday inquiry, the Omagh Bombing, the World’s End murders in Edinburgh and the Millie Dowler and Soham murders.

He has also worked on the Madeline McCann disappearance case and is currently working for several UK and Australian police forces on high-profile murders. The professor is also part of the Aberdeen-based ‘Murder, Mystery and Microscopes’ team which aims to explain the real science behind popular crime fiction via a national series of public lectures.

Margaret Murphy is the author of nine psychological thrillers and is a former Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow. She is also a founder of ‘Murder Squad,’ a touring collective of crime writers, and was Chair of the Crime Writer’s Association in 2009-10.

‘Everyone Lies’ is published on Thursday, June 20 and will be available in hardback and ebook format.

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Ross AndersonCommunications Officer | Health and Sport