When Katherine Ryan was four years old, she came downstairs to find the dishwasher had been pushed against the door to the basement. Her mother Julie, “very cheerful, stunning, blonde and little, all done up for the day by 7am”, paused from making breakfast to explain, “Oh, your grandpa and your uncles were really drunk and violent last night, so I trapped them down there to cool off.”

When Katherine Ryan was 19, her friend Jessica didn’t show up at the bar where they both worked. Later, another girl called to say that Jessica had been murdered by her ex-boyfriend – stabbed 58 times, it later transpired – and, after finishing her shift, Ryan rushed home distraught. She expected a swarm of TV news cameras, that Jessica’s dramatic death would duly be made into a film. “But my mum was very relaxed about it. She said, ‘No, this happens a lot.’ I said, ‘Excuse me? What?’ And my mum said, ‘Yes, sometimes if you leave them, they’ll kill you.’”

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