How far would you go to save your own life?
Elise Glyk is a disgraced athlete. Her brother, Callum, is a well-liked PE teacher. Both have been kidnapped, and are being held at a disused farm in the middle of nowhere.
Their captor hates Callum, and refuses to explain why. But she has little interest in Elise. So she makes an offer: she’ll let Elise go—if Elise kills Callum. That way, Elise can’t talk to the police. Not without getting arrested for murder.
Years ago, when everyone turned against Elise, Callum was the only person who stood by her. But if Elise refuses the deal, they’ll both die. With the clock ticking, Elise is forced to confront the choice: would she kill her brother to save herself?
From the bestselling author of the Hangman series, Kill Your Brother is a dark, wild thriller that will keep you guessing to the very end.
Why did you decide to write about an athlete?
I’m not sporty, but I’m fascinated by elite athletes. They’re real-life superheroes, basically—running faster, jumping higher, throwing further and lifting more than mere mortals. But their skills are never put to use. The world’s fastest runners, for example, are consigned to running around in circles until they retire. I’ve always wondered how that might feel, to spend your whole life doing incredibly difficult training in order to accomplish basically nothing. Most athletes are not rewarded in any way, or at least not enough to justify what they put in.
I often faint at the sight of blood (readers of the Hangman series are typically surprised to hear this). When I first learned about blood doping—athletes withdrawing their own blood and reinjecting it later—the idea made my skin crawl, but I was also fascinated by it. I found myself imagining an athlete who had been banned for blood doping and rejected by society, and who then had a reversal of fortunes, being forced to run for her life while bleeding to death. The idea just wouldn’t let me go.
Is this going to be as gruesome as Hangman?
Look, there are plenty of readers who love Hangman, but there are also plenty of people who find it too off-putting to read. This time around I intended to write something less dark, something that would have more mainstream appeal. But it turns out that fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Jack gotta write nightmarish crime fiction. No-one eats anyone else, though! So that’s something.
Are you claustrophobic?
Very. I recently had to record some dialogue for a podcast, sitting in a small soundproof booth. There was no daylight, and no fresh air. The experience only lasted an hour or so, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that if the door got locked somehow, no-one outside would hear me screaming. If the staff in the building forgot that I was there, I could be trapped over the weekend—like that guy in the lift in New York City. Being imprisoned underground in an empty septic tank is basically my worst nightmare, so I decided to exorcise my fears by writing about it.
Did that work?
No. I’m still claustrophobic, and afraid of blood.
Were there other stories that influenced you?
When I was younger, my favourite Australian film was Saw. In the movie, two men are held captive. One man is told his family will be murdered unless he kills the other man. It’s a great movie, but the two men are strangers to each other, and the evil mastermind is a stranger to both of them, with a purely philosophical motive. (I also liked Cube, A Behanding in Spokane, Phone Booth, Buried, and other stories in which a small group of characters were trapped in an enclosed space with a ticking clock.) I wanted to write something like that, but with layered characters who actually cared about each other, and whose motives were deeply personal. I also wanted it to be set in Australia (Saw is full of fake American accents) and to give the female and queer characters more of an active role.
How long have you been at work on this book?
I wrote the pitch and the first chapter in 2016, but didn’t have a publisher for it at the time. (Hangman wouldn’t come out for another two years.) I didn’t write the rest until Audible bought the audio rights in early 2020.
It’s mostly thanks to Chris Hammer that the book is set in Australia. If not for the success of Scrublands and other outback noir novels, I would have felt pressured to set the book in the USA, like Hangman (probably Alaska).
Did you have to do any special research?
I met with an Olympic hurdler to learn about the secret world of elite athletes, and with police and ambulance officers to make sure the other half of Elise’s life was authentic, too.
Is Warrigal a real place?
Warrigal, NSW, is a fictional town (though there is a Warragul in Victoria). Large parts of the book were written and edited during a writing retreat in Braidwood so there are some similarities in the landscape. I should stress that the people of Braidwood are much kinder than the denizens of Warrigal. I saw no evidence that anyone was holding anyone else prisoner.