The Philosopher and the Assassin

Below is a preview of the first chapter of my next book. It’s a fusion of campus novel, moral philosophy textbook and whodunnit. A tricky combo, but I like to do things differently! I’m going for Sophie’s World meets Agatha Christie meets Textbook of Moral Philosophy with a touch of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. For this one, I’m looking for a larger publisher than Habitat Press, so will be in the market for a new agent/publisher.


When the Dean proposes the controversial concept of ‘edutainment,’ Iris Tate, Professor of Moral Philosophy, goes all in with a moral philosophy course based on a whodunnit that all assume is hypothetical – a murder in a citizens’ assembly on climate. A variety of characters provide an entertaining source of ethical dilemmas, but what the students don’t know is that the ultimate dilemma is very real, and their conclusions will have far-reaching consequences. This is an original take on the traditional campus novel addressing broad themes of what justice means in an age of climate change.

Chapter 1

In the following pages, you will encounter murder, sex, drugs, betrayal, and ethical dilemmas. The story is part morality tale, part whodunit, and part story of how a respected professional went from pillar of the establishment to offender. I will ask you to make your own judgements. As is my wont, I shall lightly season with some moral philosophy. It’s going to be full on, state-of-the-art ‘edutainment’. At the end, you can rate me with a number of stars.


I’m Iris Tate, Professor of Moral Philosophy. I’ve published extensively in the academic field, but this kind of thing is new to me. I’ve been told I should start with a bit about myself. Typically narrators writing in the first person find an excuse to examine themselves in a mirror and reveal what they see. Usually someone good-looking. If it’s a male author writing as female, she may regard her naked body for a bit too.

I present a cheerful exterior. In my previous post in the Business School, a couple of colleagues called me Chip. I’m not sure if it was short for chipper or due to my toothy chipmunk smile. I’d love Chip to catch on here, but it doesn’t count if you suggest it yourself. All the philosophy in the world doesn’t protect you from the need to belong. I was looking for my tribe. A bit late in the day at 51 you might think, but a lot has changed in the last few years.

Also, one should reveal character, maybe by saving a cat or something. I’ve done a few of those personality questionnaires, are you introvert, extrovert, etc. I’m always bang in the middle. I seek balance. Someone told me it’s because I’m a Libra, but I don’t believe in any of that nonsense. I believe in reason and ethics.

How do we judge ourselves anyway? Many like to identify themselves with some kind of label. But as the philosopher Wittgenstein said, words, categories, identities – they are artificially created boxes. They are frames on meaning. We exist in a boundless universe of everything and we put a frame around this or that piece of it and call it a table, justice, bisexual, insect, etc. We then juggle these boxes around, hoping we can make sense of them, and if they don’t add up, we argue. But these are frames around an infinity of connections and meanings so it’s no surprise. They could never add up neatly. This is if I understand Wittgenstein correctly. If I don’t, I’m in good company. Even his teacher and mentor, Bertrand Russell, was accused of misunderstanding what Wittgenstein was trying to say. That’s the trouble with using language to explain the trouble with language. I’d welcome a phenomenologist’s view on this. ‘It is what it is,’ they’d probably say, and what would Wittgenstein make of that?

Suffice to say, I am first and foremost a professor of moral philosophy. You’ll know me through my work. Although, if you’re hoping this book is going to be full of philosophical ruminations you will be disappointed, because things start to happen. Things happen all the time of course, but the inciting incident, as they call it, occurred when I started my new job in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

Below is a review by Miles Hawksley, senior editor of The Literary Studio, reproduced with permission:

Having assessed this novel, I was struck first by its deft and unusual use of form to create a kaleidoscopic and deeply clever narrative. At once a commentary on the looming responsibility of the climate crisis and our ever-shrinking opportunity to enact meaningful change, and a far from conventional whodunnit, the book plays with the notion of what is moral and what is right. Complicit in the book’s central sprawling philosophical dilemma, the reader finds themselves judge, jury and executioner in the case of the century. While the novel tackles prescient and troubling themes and poses difficult questions (how far should we go for the greater good?), it does so with a sense of dry humour and a delightful eye for the absurd. Above all, the warmth and resilience of its ineffable protagonist suffuses the narrative and, as the story ends, we struggle to leave her behind. Not only is ‘The Philosopher and the Assassin’ a timely, thought-provoking and essential story in age of urgent, innovative climate action that demands the attention of us all, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Funny, memorable, characterful and original.

I’m excited to report that a loose adaptation of the story for TV won the the Writing Climate Pitchfest, 2024. There are three series in production from last year’s competition, so fingers crossed! The TV series ‘The Assassin’ fuses legal/political thriller and family drama. It follows Robert Beech, Director of Public Prosecutions from his journey from pillar of the legal establishment to jail awaiting trial for murder. The story grapples with the most pressing question of our age – what do we do when our current systems are leading us to planetary destruction?