Leslie forbes

‘Lost in the A-Z’ concerns a series of crimes perpetrated by three artists – triplets – with conflicting responses to three states locked in the Middle East’s claustrophobic landscape. A landscape where the frame is too small for the canvas.

‘Each time she comes back from the dead, her wars with Miriam and Marina get up from sleep.’

Whodunnit? How? Will they get away with it? Triangulation is central to the map of almost all crime fiction: murder, solution and punishment; perpetrator, victim and investigator. Readers, of course, are the ultimate detectives, because whilst it’s the author’s right to decide whether his or her criminals will be punished, the reader frequently unravels the mystery before the story’s investigator-triangulator does.

‘The place names lied, Inspector. We were three sappers tunnelling through Battlestation London. Sappers – from the Arabic sabor, burrow….and sabora, to probe a wound.’

For the full essay text please see the publication.


Leslie Forbes is an award-winning writer interested in charting the terrain between art and science. Born in Canada, she studied physics – briefly – before switching to graphic design and moving to London. After leaving the Royal College of Art she wrote and illustrated four travel books while creating BBC programmes on everything from the Indian spice trails to phantom limbs and lost false teeth. For Radio 4’s Crimescapes’ she explored cities with their crime writers; in her series ‘Paper Gardens’ she examined how landscape has influenced artists. Why do Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey fill a church with a vertical lawn, Forbes asked, and war photographer Don McCullin take pictures of dahlias as well as battles? Such transgressions of boundaries are central to her own practice. Winning a Wellcome Trust Sci-Art award with physicist Pete Barham, for example, led her to write ‘Fish, Blood & Bone’ (long-listed for the Orange Prize) showing how chlorophyll and haem molecules reflect the triangulation of India by anonymous Indians. A chaos theorist helped with her thriller ‘Bombay Ice’, where the monsoon defeats a murderous producer’s Bollywood version of The Tempest. And ‘Waking Raphael’, a mystery concerning the speech of a mute Italian, was the result of Forbes’s work with speech pathologists and Italian lawyers. Since 2003 she has been helping torture survivors write about their sense of alienation. Ironic, perhaps, that in 2005 she developed a form of epilepsy that occasionally renders her mute, unable to write. This led to ‘ABS NCES’, a book with Oona Grimes, and underlies Forbes’s many stories for other artists about the topography of neural paths between our brain’s right and left hemispheres. About re-mapping image and word.