Meet Harriet Tyce Author Of It Ends At Midnight

Sylvie wants to be a judge, but does someone know the skeleton hidden far back in her closet? Harriet Type's latest thriller It Ends at Midnight is set in the world of the law, with a countdown to a deadly New Years' Eve party. But who is going to die?

You can download the ebook of It Ends at Midnight from Amazon or buy a paper copy from Thriller Women's list at NB: if you buy books through this link we may earn a commission from, whose fees support independent bookshops.

Harriet tells us how she explores guilt and shame; the author she's in awe of; and all about one of the strangest cases she worked on as a barrister. Plus scroll down to read an exclusive extract of the novel. 

Front cover of It Ends At Midnight by Harriet Tyce

TW: Congratulations on the publication of It Ends At Midnight. Tell us a bit about your protagonist Sylvie and the scenario she's facing.

HT: Thank you! Sylvie is a complicated person. She’s driven, ambitious, and keen to take the next step in her career, which is to become a judge. At the beginning of the present day story that leads to the climax of the book, she’s actually in a really good place. She’s been given the nod to make the judicial application, she’s about to start a new case, and she’s got a lovely new boyfriend and that relationship is going really well. So it comes as a complete shock to her when her oldest friend, Tess, tells her that she’s been diagnosed with a serious illness, and that as a result, she wants to dig up one of the worst times in Sylvie’s life, and potentially kick off a series of events that could derail everything for which Sylvie has worked for so long.

TW: Everyone loves a good NYE party - but this one is deadly! How do you keep the tension going throughout the novel, weaving the mystery with Tess and Sylvie's back story?

HT: The book opens with a passage from the point of view of a fox which has discovered something very odd – and tasty – which we soon discover is a body (or bodies!) that’s been impaled on railings after falling from the roof. Who, how and why is the big question that drives the narrative, diving back into the past, so I return to it from a number of different perspectives as the crime scene develops. I enjoyed writing these scenes a lot and I hope they do achieve the goal of keeping that mystery in the reader’s mind.

TW: Guilt is a big theme in the novel. How do you explore this?

HT: Guilt (and shame) are two emotions that interest me a great deal. It’s fascinating how we are able to suppress secrets and moments of which we are deeply ashamed, and how unless these emotions are properly handled (ie by way of a proper apology and acknowledgement of the hurt caused), they have a habit of leaking out in ways that can be deeply damaging. I often tell my kids that it’s not the original offence that’s the issue, but the covering up, and I think this is key to what I’m trying to do in the novel. Sylvie and Tess have both made decisions through their lives to suppress the truth around things that they’ve done wrong, but as they discover, they can’t pretend it doesn’t exist forever.

TW: How has your career as a criminal barrister informed your novels? Would readers just not believe some real life situations you worked in?

HT: My career has given me an insight into the workings of the criminal bar and how life actually is, which is hard to replicate with research. It can be easy to be very impressed at the idea of barristers and hold the profession in high regard, and having been on the inside, I want to draw the curtain back to show that it’s a lot murkier than it looks from outside. 

Having said that, I’m now out of law, I think. I stopped working as a barrister over 15 years ago so there are a lot of changes I don’t know about, plus my practice was never very heavyweight. That’s why the case that features in this novel is set in Highbury and Islington Youth Court rather than the Old Bailey! In terms of the real life situations, the most unbelievable thing for me at least were some of the defences that my clients put forward. Of course it’s for the prosecution to prove their case, and it was never my job to have an opinion on what some of my clients said, but to say that some of it stretched the realms of credulity to their limits would be an understatement.

TW: This is your third thriller. Do they get any easier to write the more you have under your belt or is it harder to come up with plots and twists you haven't used before?

HT: I hope that it’ll get easier! This one was a lot of fun to write (even though it’s very dark) and that made it a lot more straightforward for me to motivate myself to get on with it. But it is hard to come up with original ideas and twists that the reader won’t see coming. I think that each book carries its own challenges, and while I’ve got more confidence that I’ll find a solution to problems as they crop up in planning and writing (not to mention editing) there are always moments I look at the blank page and start googling ‘How to write a novel’ again. I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing that.

TW: What's your writing routine?

HT: In an ideal world, my routine is to get up very early, walk my dogs on Hampstead Heath before coming home and writing 1000 words before lunch, and doing this Monday to Friday until I have a complete draft. In reality, I achieve this maybe once or twice a week. I procrastinate terribly on Twitter or else cleaning and tidying things that don’t need it, and maybe hit that 1000 word deadline some ten hours after I’ve sat down in front of the computer. It’s not the best method I have to say!

TW: If you didn't write thrillers, which other genre would you like to write in?

HT: I would love to know how to write historical fiction so that I could write the kind of book that has a beautiful patterned cover and sprayed edges! Also I think it must be fascinating to immerse yourself in a different time and place. I don’t think I’d know where to start, though. Or else I’d like to write an up-lit with entirely likeable characters. I have a feeling I’d end up killing everyone though however hard I tried…

TW: You've appeared at lots of writing festivals. Which authors have you met that you've been most awestruck by? 

HT: From the publication of my debut it’s blown me away that I’ve had the opportunity to appear on panels with authors whose work I’ve admired for so many years. I’ve been insanely lucky. It’s very hard to choose but I think I would have to say that being on a panel chaired by Ian Rankin was an extraordinary moment, and one for which I will always be extremely grateful.

TW: Tell us what you can about book 4!

HT: I’m getting stuck into the first draft at the moment – I’ve done a lot of planning on this one, and research about the part of the world where I’m setting it. It’s a bit of a departure because it has no law (as I said above, I think I’ve run out…) and it’s perhaps a little more of a locked room mystery, though I’ll be bringing my own twists to it and my trademark characters that readers will love to hate.

Quick fire questions:

TW:  Favourite way to celebrate NYE?

HT: Having dinner at home with friends and family

TW: The book you've never read but want to?

HT: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

TW: Book on your bedside table?

HT: Currently The Fake-Up by Justin Myers

TW: Paperbacks or audiobooks?

HT: Paperbacks though I do love audiobooks too.

TW: Most bizarre law case you've ever worked on?

HT: Not so much bizarre as just the perfect embodiment of Chekhov’s law, that a gun in the first scene must have gone off by the end of the play. My takeaway from the murder trial for which I did some research was that it’s not a good idea to combine an addiction to crack cocaine with a collection of samurai swords hung prominently on your living room wall...

Thanks Harriet!

Head and shoulders photo of author Harriet Tyce

Exclusive extract from It Ends at Midnight:



This isn’t happening. I’m not here, not hanging over the railings face down staring at the pavement. Going to try and look up.

It hurts. Try to move, to touch it. Cold metal. Wet iron. I lift my hand again, but it flops down.

I can’t move.

Catch my hand in the light. Squint, my eyes closing fast. Red. Covered in red.

I close my eyes.

Chapter 1

'You won!’

‘I won,’ I say, suppressing my grin. The victim’s family are standing nearby at the door of court and I don’t want to rub it in. My client’s mum might be delighted that his sentence has been cut by the appeal court from twelve years to eight, but judging by the mutterings and dark looks I’m being thrown, they’re less than pleased.

‘I don’t know how you sleep at night,’ a man says, pushing past me to join the family. I pull my gown more closely around me, tipping my head so my wig obscures my eyes.

‘Ignore him,’ my solicitor Jonah says. He’s not trying to suppress his smile. He looks delighted. ‘It’s a brilliant result.’

‘We got what we wanted,’ I say. ‘Let me get changed and we’ll get out of here.’

‘Drink?’ he says, looking from me to our client’s parents who are standing beside us. I nod, but they shake their heads.

‘It’s been a long day,’ the father says. ‘Thank you, though. We know he’s still going to be in prison for a long time, but at least we can see the end of it now.’

‘I’ll see you out of the building,’ Jonah says to them. He turns to me before he goes, ‘Daly’s?’

I nod again, before skirting round the hostile group to get to the robing room where I change quickly, folding my gown up and ramming it into my red bag along with my wig and my papers. Normally it’s my trusty wheelie bag, but not today; appearances at the Court of Appeal are rare enough that they warrant the use of the bag that was given to me by my first pupil master, my mentor, the top QC in chambers, after the kidnapping trial that we did together.

He’ll be pleased with today’s result. I’m pleased too. It all went off exactly as I’d hoped. Better, even.

‘Nice one, Sylvie,’ the barrister for the prosecution calls out to me. I’m about to walk out of the main doors of the Royal Courts of Justice. I turn to face him, moving back into the hall.

‘You did well,’ he continues. I look at him closely, wondering if there’s a note of condescension lurking underneath. ‘I’ve heard a lot of good things about you. Turns out they were right.’

‘Thanks,’ I say, my voice respectful. Maybe the condescension is there, but to be fair he’s ten years my senior. And a QC with a hotline straight to the Judicial Appointments Commission. If this is going to be a good reference, I’m not going to fuck it up. ‘It was an interesting case.’

‘Very interesting,’ he says. ‘Normally I’d say they should throw away the key for kiddy fiddlers, but you made a compelling argument.’ He leans towards me, his face taking on a more familiar expression. ‘Rumour has it you’ve got a judicial application in the works. On the basis of today I’d say you’re well in there.’ He pats my shoulder, walks away. My heart pounds with excitement. One step closer to my holy grail, the red sash and purple robes of the Crown Court judge.

Jonah has snagged a table and bought a bottle of wine. He pours me a glass as I approach.

‘That was great,’ he says once I’ve sat down. ‘You had them eating out of your hand.’

‘Not the way to talk about Appeal Court judges,’ I say, raising my glass to him. ‘They were very receptive, though.’

‘It was your skeleton argument that did it. You’d laid it all out so well. I’m impressed.’

I take a sip of wine, but the warmth that’s lighting up inside me comes from his words, not the alcohol. I worked very hard on this appeal. I knew how much was riding on it. Sure, I have to fill in the application forms, go through all the tests that are required in the process of trying to become a judge, but the better I’m doing in my real-life work, the greater my chances.

Taking another sip, I look around the bar, satisfaction seeping into my bones. There’s a guy over there I recognise from pupillage, bloated now, years of drinking after work taking its toll. I know his practice is shit, bad cases for worse solicitors. Not like me, fresh from the Court of Appeal. I catch Jonah’s eye and smile. Normally I’d temper my arrogance, exercise some caution in my self-satisfaction. Not tonight. Triumph is mine.

‘So, what next for the unstoppable Sylvie?’ he says. ‘Any more appeals up your sleeve? Crucial points of law?’

I shake my head. ‘I’m back in the Youth Court soon. High- bury Youth Court, to be precise.’

He looks aghast. ‘What the fuck are you doing in there? I steer well clear these days.’

‘It’s a trial, a multi-hander,’ I say, smiling at his confusion. ‘And I’m the judge.’

Comprehension dawns on his face. ‘I always forget you sit as a district judge.’

‘Yeah, it’s only part-time.’

‘Sensible move, too. Given your plan for world domination.’ ‘Hardly world domination,’ I say, failing to hide my smirk.

‘I’ll settle for ending up on the Crown Court bench full-time.’

Jonah laughs. ‘I bet you’re sorry there isn’t a death penalty any more. I can see you passing sentence now in your black cap, May God have mercy on your soul.’

I laugh too, but a chill passes across me, the hairs on my arms rising in goosebumps despite the warmth of the bar. For a moment I’m miles away. Years away...

‘Sylvie,’ Jonah says, and I’m pulled back to now. ‘Sylvie, do you want to have dinner? I was thinking it might be nice to hang out.’

There’s a question here that goes beyond food and I contemplate it, looking him up and down. It would be fun. I can picture it now, the feel of his hands on me, the roughness of his beard against the softness of my neck. My thighs.

I shake my head. Not tonight.

‘I have to get back,’ I say. ‘Someone’s cooking me dinner at home.’

‘Ah, OK,’ he says, almost managing to hide his surprise, one eyebrow shooting up before he gets it back under control. ‘Nice.’

I drain my glass and stand up. ‘Yes, it will be.’

* * *

I decide to walk back to Oval. I could have left later but as soon as Jonah asked the question I knew it was time to go. It’s not the first time we’ve ended up in a bar after a case, nor the first time that it’s gone from there via dinner to bed. I can understand his surprise at my rejection. I’m telling the truth, though. There is someone cooking for me at home.

I nurse the thought of Gareth all the way across Waterloo Bridge and down Baylis Road. I can picture him now, chopping and sautéing, his face set in concentration. I’ve never met anyone who takes food more seriously. It puts my takeaway and microwave meal habits to shame. The first time he came down to stay, he looked through my fridge with disdain, filling a carrier bag with all the out-of-date sauces he found on the top shelf. I watched with growing horror, convinced that he was going to dump me for my non-gourmet ways.

That was six months ago, and he’s still here, still cooking. And my fridge is full of a much higher class of condiment. Not to mention wine. Friday nights in with the boyfriend might be a new departure for me, but they’re certainly not a more sober one.

When I let myself through the front door the scent of frying onion and garlic is thick in the air. I open the door to the flat and call out but the extractor fan’s on and there’s no reply. Dumping my bag and coat, I go through to the kitchen. Gareth’s standing with his back to me, stirring something at the stove. I walk behind him and put my arms around him. He jumps in surprise, jerking the hand that’s holding a wooden spoon so that he flicks hot oil and onion onto me. I scream out and pull myself away from him, rushing to the sink to stick my arm under the tap.

He turns the fan off and the room falls quiet, the only sound the water rushing from the tap.

‘You OK?’ he says. ‘I’m sorry, you gave me such a fright. I didn’t hear you come in.’

‘I’m fine, honestly,’ I say. ‘I didn’t mean to scare you.’

Gareth puts his hand out and takes mine, turning my arm this way and that to look at the damage. There isn’t much, only a small red mark. He raises it to his lips and kisses the burn.

‘It’s not so bad,’ he says. ‘I’ve had worse.’ He waves his other hand at me, calloused from years of cooking. Asbestos hands. I smile, move forwards and hug him again, but this time front to front. He puts his arms around me and we stand for amoment like that. I think about boyfriends before, how I wouldn’t even let them stay the night, let alone give them the key and the run of my kitchen. I start to laugh, my face muffled in his shoulder, and he lets go of me immediately.

‘You OK?’ he says again, his voice filled with concern. I look at him blankly for a moment before I realise.

‘I’m not crying,’ I say, ‘I’m laughing.’ ‘Why are you laughing?’

‘Because I’m happy,’ I say. ‘It’s so nice to see you.’

I change out of my suit while he finishes off dinner, shutting myself in the bathroom to redo my face. I’m relaxed with him; more than relaxed. Enough for tracksuit bottoms and a vest top. Not quite enough for a make-up-free look, though I’ve got better from the early days, when I used to slide out of bed before he woke to slap concealer under my eyes. Compared to most, though, he’s seeing the real me, as I emerge blinking into the light of a proper relationship.

‘You look lovely,’ he says when I come out, handing me a large glass of red. ‘Good day?’

‘Very good,’ I say. ‘I won the appeal.’ ‘Wow, that’s great.’

‘It really is. Just what I needed for my judge’s application. I’ll be able to talk all about it.’

He raises his glass. ‘Congratulations. Here’s to the future Lady Munro.’

‘I won’t be a lady unless I make it to the High Court bench,’ I say.

‘You will. I have no doubt that you can achieve anything you want.’

Gareth drinks and I drink too, looking him straight in the eye. He’s not who I expected I’d end up with, not some greying Lothario with an eye to a second wife. He’s younger, fitter than me, lithe and bright-eyed with all his own hair. Good with his hands, too...

‘I don’t know how I got so lucky with you,’ I say. ‘Still can’t believe I ended up with my own private chef.’

‘No more than you deserve,’ he says. ‘I can’t believe I found you, either. The person I’ve been looking for all my life.’

I smile at him and he smiles back, the pulse between us warm and steady. I lift my fork and eat, relishing each mouthful. It’s a chicken tagine, rich with spices – cumin, cinnamon, saffron – the bite of preserved lemon sharp against the sweetness of dried apricot, the tang of the green olives he’s taken the time to pit, each one cut in half and half again.

‘No one’s ever cooked for me before,’ I say. ‘Not like this, at least. Normally it’s a bacon roll if I’m lucky.’

‘I’ve got some bacon,’ he says. ‘I was hoping you might rise to the occasion and make me a sandwich in the morning.’

‘If you’re sure you want to risk it,’ I say. I scrape the rest of the sauce up onto my fork before putting down my cutlery and running my finger round the plate, collecting up every last bit. Gareth laughs at me but I shrug, defiant.

‘That was delicious,’ I say. ‘What’s for dessert?’

In reply, he stands, moves over to me. He pulls me up to my feet and kisses me before biting my shoulder.

‘You,’ he says, and takes off my top.

More about It Ends at Midnight

It's New Year's Eve and the stage is set for a lavish party in one of Edinburgh's best postcodes. It's a moment for old friends to set the past to rights - and move on.

The night sky is alive with fireworks and the champagne is flowing. But the celebration fails to materialise. Because someone at this party is going to die tonight.

Midnight approaches and the countdown begins - but it seems one of the guests doesn't want a resolution. They want revenge...


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