One of the world's best-selling crime writers has told an audience of several hundred that his first attempt to do research landed him as the prime suspect in a serial murder case.
At a function in Christchurch last night, Ian Rankin said: "I didn't know anything about the police so I went to the police station and told them I'm writing a book.
"I gave them the plot, not realising they were investigating a crime that was almost identical.
"They said, 'Why don't we pretend you're a suspect?' After 1½ hours they let me go. I was the only suspect in a missing person case that ended up with seven victims."
The real killer was caught in a coincidence - a stone caught in a lawnmower - that Rankin said would have been rejected as outlandish if he had written it in a book.
Unlike Rankin, his creation Rebus now faces retirement.
"I don't get a rest," Rankin explained. "I'm writing a libretto for a 15-minute opera which is set in Italy and begins and ends with a bloodbath."