This is the dilemma my protagonist, Cynthia Webber, faces in Murder Audit. Her piece-of-work boss, David Jerew, threatens her career and her life if she tells the truth about what she found during the routine audit of David’s top client, Prairie Pipeline Company.
When I started writing Murder Audit, besides wanting to show that accountants are more than short men with bow ties and glasses held together with tape, I knew I wanted to focus on the fiduciary duty a professional accountant has to their client. This is a professional ethical relationship built on the highest trust. Sadly, when I was a CPA, I met a number of people in the profession whose ethics I questioned. If you read Murder Audit, you will see that David, the antagonist, has no ethics.
The truth has always been important to me. Even as a child, I remember thinking about how things weren't fair because somebody didn't tell the truth and they got away with it. Things like that still make me mad. As I finished reading my novel for yet another round of proofreading, I realized the truth is everywhere in there.
This was exciting to me because a year ago when I was asked what the theme of my novel was, I couldn't answer the question. I probably said that it’s a financial crime thriller, but that’s not a theme, that’s a genre. I think it was just so simple that I didn't think of it. Murder Audit is about more than just the duty a professional accountant has to their client. There's truth throughout the whole novel, and where there’s truth there’s also lies and deceit.
Of course, the truth appears in almost any mystery, thriller, or suspense story. The protagonists are always fighting against the antagonist to get to the truth and it's usually revealed by the end of the story. In Murder Audit, Cynthia’s troubles start when she tells the truth―something that normally wouldn’t trigger being fired from your job. Cynthia enlists her friend Linda Reeves, investigative reporter, to help her uncover the truth behind why she was fired.
So, why would Cynthia tell the truth knowing that she would lose her job and put her life and the lives of her family members, including her four-year-old son, in danger? Cynthia is a CPA student who believes strongly in the fiduciary duty that says, not only does the CPA have an obligation to their clients, but they also have a duty to the general public. Plus, Cynthia didn’t believe David would actually act on his threats when the audit department was short-staffed and in peak season!
The truth also shows up in the subplot that focuses on the relationship between Gord and Eve. Gord is a high-powered accountant working for Prairie Pipeline Company who's having an affair with Eve, a married environmental scientist. Murder Audit contains many other secrets and lies whose truths are revealed by the end of the book. I don't want to share too much, of course, because I hope you’ll read it and find out for yourself. If you do, I'd love to know if you see truth as a recurring theme throughout the book as well.
The realization that Murder Audit is about the truth helped me come up with this one-liner I’m using to promote the book. The truth will set you free... Unless you're Cynthia Webber.