WHEN Liz Mistry first thought about doing an MA in creative writing, she wasn’t sure if she would complete the course.

“Suffering from severe depression that made it difficult for me to leave my bed, never mind my house for long periods of time, I knew this would be one of the most difficult things I ever did,” she says. “I didn’t know it at the time, but it would also prove to be one of the most fulfilling and beneficial things I’ve done for many years.”

Now Liz, from Scotland, who has lived in Bradford for 30 years with her husband and three children, has written her first novel, Unquiet Souls, a dark thriller released on July 30, which features Ilkley in the plot.

It begins with a prologue, set in 2003. The Matchmaker is a sociopath with a high-powered job, who maintains the respectable façade of his marriage while creating a child-trafficking ring in Eastern Europe, catering for affluent UK figures. These include The Treasurer, whose wife discovers his secret and reports him to CID. They link him to The Matchmaker’s ring and she’s encouraged to help them compile evidence. The Matchmaker, having inside information, evades detection along with all but The Treasurer who’s sent to a sex offenders’ prison. His wife enters witness protection with her baby daughter.

Fast-forward to 2015 and a murdered prostitute in Bradford leads to the discovery of a group of Eastern European children incarcerated in her attic. Next comes the abduction of a girl from Ilkley, in witness protection with her mother. Having seen news reports about the ‘attic children’, she’s convinced The Matchmaker has abducted her daughter. Her fears are shared by a Polish detective, sent to repatriate the children, who was involved in the original investigation. Soon The Matchmaker emails a recording of him with the kidnapped girl, revealing his plans for revenge.

The action focuses on a police investigation in Bradford headed by DI Gus McGuire who, with a degree in forensic psychology, has been fast-tracked through the ranks and heads up Bradford’s Major Incident Team.

Liz, who has taught in Bradford primary schools, is on course to complete a creative writing MA with distinction at Leeds Trinity University. She is co-founder of The Crime Warp blog, showcasing crime fiction and authors.

“When I met with tutor Martyn Bedford (young adult fiction writer and author of Twenty Questions for Gloria) for my pre-course interview, I was petrified,” she recalls. “The fact that I spilled coffee down my front didn’t seem to put Martyn off and I was offered a place. We agreed that I’d aim to complete the first draft of my novel Unquiet Souls, which I’d been working on for a couple of years, and use the MA to edit it. The next hurdle was my health.”

Seeing a counsellor helped Liz cope with panic attacks and anxiety. “One of the main issues I faced was my inability to concentrate for long periods,” she says. “Organising my time has been a major issue and I struggled to keep on top of my workload.

“Slowly, over weeks and months, I gained a confidence I’d lost over the years. Although still vulnerable to huge mood dips and panic attacks, I use my writing to get me through it.

“The added bonus of being a writer is that I don’t have to leave the house or work to a specific schedule, two things I have difficulty with.”

After completing the second draft of Unquiet Souls she began to approach publishing agents.

“That was when the rejection e-mails started to arrive, so when Bloodhound Books suggested I submit my first few chapters, and subsequently offered me a two-book deal, I was over the moon. I’m still pinching myself,” says Liz.

“I owe a debt of gratitude to the lecturers on the creative writing MA. Their talent, approachability and professionalism instilled in me a deep confidence and sense of security.”

Emma Clayton