I am thrilled to welcome Linda Huber back to the blog today to celebrate the release of her brilliant new book Ward Zero on 1st October 2016. Linda has written a piece about the shocking scam she used as inspiration for Ward Zero. It’s heartbreaking to think that so many elderly people fall for this heartless con. Over to you Linda…
The Grandchild Trick
Several years ago, I was watching a popular consumer programme on Swiss TV. As well as giving us info about the best kind of toothpaste, and how much nitrate is in which kinds of pre-packed salad, they uncover conmen and their scams, so it makes for interesting watching. And one report had my ears sky-high…
It was about an old woman, and she had lost most of her savings. Why? Because someone had called her on the phone, and when he said he was a distant relative in need of a cash injection, she believed him.
I was gobsmacked. Firstly, that anyone would have the temerity to target an old person in this way, and secondly, that the woman had fallen for it. Not only that, she’d gone to the bank, withdrawn a huge amount of money, and given it to him. Personally. By the time her family realised what had happened, the cash was long gone.
Then, over the next several months, there was an absolute rash of such crimes – old people were contacted, mostly on the phone, given some sob story about a friend or relative, and asked for cash. A horrifyingly large number of them fell for it, and the newspapers started calling it The Grandchild Trick.
The conmen/women were clever – they manipulated the initial conversation in such a way that it seemed to the old person that this was someone who knew all about the family. And of course, so many older people are lonely, vulnerable, only too pleased to chat to a friendly voice on the phone…
It’s such a cruel scam, and unbelievable as it sounds, it’s still happening. Nowadays, fortunately, banks are watching out for it, and if an older person arrives and demands a large cash sum, the bank will inquire further. But that doesn’t help if the victim uses a cash dispenser…
The sheer audacity of it fascinated me and a shimmer of an idea for a book started in my head. How did the conman plan his attack? How would he persuade his victims that he knew them? How would the victims react? What kind of older person would fall for this?
And then – where would be a good place for the conman to find his victims? In a hospital, yes. What if…
And that was the start of Ward Zero. It’s the story of Sarah, who arrives home expecting to go on holiday with her foster mum, then finds herself in the middle of a con trick centred around the local hospital. Before long, Sarah’s life is in danger…
My crime info for this book came mainly from Switzerland, while my hospital info came from my own jobs as a physiotherapist in Scotland and Switzerland. The book is set near Manchester, England, where friends live… it was a pretty international project! And it was very nearly finished, when early this year I discovered that someone I know was almost a victim of The Grandchild Trick herself.
It’s a small world – and a dangerous one.
Thank you, Linda. It’s not on the same scale at all but I remember being very upset to discover that my grandfather (who is no longer with us) had fallen for numerous charity scams of a similar ilk. People turning up on his doorstep requesting money for ‘Feed the Garden Gnomes’ and that sort of thing. Heartbreaking that people could do that really.
As well as Linda’s brilliant guest post I have my review of Ward Zero to share with you today. But first the cover and blurb to whet your appetite:
“Horror swept through her. Had she been buried alive?
On Sarah’s first visit to see her foster mother, Mim, in Brockburn General Hospital, she is sucked into a world that isn’t what it should be.
Someone is lying, someone is stealing. And someone is killing – but who? With a grieving child to take care of, as well as Mim, Sarah has to put family first. She doesn’t see where danger lies – until it’s too late.
If you think you’re safe in a hospital, think again.”
First off, I love that cover. I think it’s creepy and it gives me the heebie jeebies. Which meant I had high expectations for Ward Zero, also my first Linda Huber read. I am delighted to confirm that those expectations were well met and I can’t wait to make a start on Linda’s other books.
Petra and her young daughter, Frankie are in a panic. Having suffered a number of strokes, Wilma, Petra’s grandmother, is ensconced in hospital for the foreseeable future. That however doesn’t stop the rent from being due. Thankfully, Petra has taken on the majority of Wilma’s affairs including paying her rent on time. But there’s no money. All of Wilma’s savings have gone. Just vanished! Whilst visiting Wilma in hospital, Petra bumps into Sarah and her foster mother. Sarah recognises Petra immediately as Petra’s daughter has also spent time in her foster mother’s care. By being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Sarah is unwittingly thrown into a tale of deceit and murder. The bodies begin to pile up, but can Sarah work out who the ‘con artist turned murderer’ is before it’s too late…?
I love books where everyone you meet along the way ‘could’ be the killer and this is one of those books. Who would be so heartless as to steal the life savings of the elderly hospital patients? The guy who works in the hospital bank? The incredibly secretive staff nurse? Oh there are plenty of suspects. I did manage to guess who the killer was before the reveal but Linda Huber’s writing kept me on my toes. You make an educated guess at the suspect, only to be convinced otherwise a few pages on!
This book had a lovely family feel about it; a real ‘them versus us’, ‘good versus evil’ which I really enjoyed. It’s a strange thing for me to say on this blog but the family feel gave the story warmth and a sense of camaraderie. I really liked Sarah and was cheering her on all the way.
The closing chapters were creepy and I was on the edge of my seat, wondering whether Sarah would manage to escape her predicament. I was drawn into the story and was fascinated to see where the plot would go.
Would I recommend this book? I would. It’s a jot gentler than my usual reads but it was very enjoyable and I’m keen to move Linda’s previous books to the top of the TBR. I enjoyed Linda’s writing and characters and look forward to reading more soon.
Four out of five stars.
Many thanks to Linda Huber for providing me with a copy of Ward Zero…the Dead Ward in exchange for an honest review.
Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years spent as a full-time mum to two boys and a rescue dog.
Linda’s books are psychological suspense novels, and the ideas for them come from daily life. The Paradise Trees and The Cold Cold Sea were traditionally published in 2013/2014 before she self-published The Attic Room in 2015 and Chosen Child in early 2016.
Ward Zero, her fifth book, was inspired by a Swiss TV programme and a hospital in the UK…