George Cross is a brilliant detective in the Somerset and Avon police force, based in the Major Crimes Unit (MCU) in Bristol. He is a detective sergeant which surprises some people. Why hasn’t he been promoted at his age, is the question most often asked. The truth is that Cross is very happy with the level he finds himself at. He doesn’t want the extra responsibilities that come with a higher rank. Doesn’t want to be in charge of a team of other police officers. He doesn’t like crowds, not even crowded rooms. He can’t tolerate noise. His people skills are so negligible as to be almost non-existent. These idiosyncrasies and his diffident manner are excused by his superiors because of his astonishing success rate. He has the highest conviction rate in the force – conviction, not arrest. These are cases that have gone to court and resulted in a conviction. This is because Cross is thorough, methodical and doggedly persistent. This means his chains of custody, evidence and procedure are all done by the book. Absolutely. No wiggle room for him. His paperwork is immaculate and the cases he presents are as close to watertight as is possible. He can’t rest until he has discovered the real truth, not the convenient truth. He has a need for justice to be served. This is why a prosecuting barrister will beam from ear to ear if Cross’s name is on his case file. He or she will know that they are already a step ahead of the defence and that their job is to present the facts convincingly to the jury in the way Cross has delivered them. This alone will leave the jury no choice but to convict.
While his colleagues often find him difficult and socially awkward, many of them are getting used to his ways. They come to realise that his way of thinking about a case is completely different to theirs and while difficult to fathom at first, he is invariably successful. They have a lot to learn from him. Not all of them, though. Some positively dislike him.
All of this is because George Cross is on the spectrum. He has Asperger’s syndrome, or Autism spectrum condition as some people prefer to refer to it after the revelation in 2018 of Hans Asperger’s links with the Nazi regime in the second world war. Many of the great detectives we all love, from Dupin to Sherlock and Poirot have something in common, other than just their deductive powers. They are all, to some extent, in my opinion, on the autistic spectrum. I decided my character would also be on the spectrum but unlike the detectives mentioned above it would not only be acknowledged but also central to the way he worked. Autism, particularly Asperger’s, has always interested me. I set about researching it in depth over a period of a couple of years and met world-leading experts in the field. I wanted this to be an accurate portrayal of someone, both socially and at work. Also, of a detective for whom his condition is his gift. He analyses things in a different way to his colleagues around him.
Writing Cross is a challenge because of the way he works. He deals with the evidence in front of him. There are rules for writing him which have to be adhered to. He doesn’t hypothesise or come up with theories regarding a case but is happy to let others do it. He doesn’t have gut instincts about cases. He’s interested in patterns. Patterns of behaviour, patterns of events, patterns of correspondence. But what interests him most is when those patterns are interrupted. When the logic of something is broken he wants to know why. It is often in these small details, that others tend to overlook, that he finds the answers to his cases. It’s precisely because he is so wedded to logic in his own life and his regimented routine that he finds it easy to find the lapses in it in others. His perspective is therefore unique.
I’ve come to love my characters especially Cross. I root for him even when he is at his most confounding and irritating and hope readers will feel the same way.