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Wednesday 29 April 2020

‘Rather to be Pitied’ by Jan Newton

Published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press,
21 March 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-909983-86-1 (PB)

School children, preparing for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, stumble by chance on a dead body near a mountain track in mid-Wales and their teacher summons the local police. Detective Sergeant Julie Kite is newly promoted and has been working in Wales for only a few months. She had thought that this was a quiet, peaceful area where little happened, but this is the second murder investigation she has been involved in since she moved from her native Manchester. Julie misses her friends and family in Manchester and has found the change of lifestyle difficult to adapt to, both because it takes so long to get from place to place and because in the Welsh towns and villages everybody seems to know everybody else. She cannot go anywhere in company with her senior officer, Detective Inspector Craig Swift, without him being greeted by name. Julie’s husband, Adam, has embraced their change of circumstances with its opportunities for mountain exercise, although Julie wishes that he had not also embraced a vegan lifestyle, which means she is forced to resort to stealthy take-away meals in her car.

The body is in a state of decomposition and so emaciated that it is not until the pathologist starts the post mortem that she realises the victim is a young woman. Further examination reveals that she has at some point had a child. The police struggle to identify her but when they manage to do so the case grows even more complicated as their investigation reveals that several more people have gone missing in the last few months and they cannot be sure whether they have any connection with the case. They trace the last place the victim stayed to a local bed-and-breakfast but are uncertain whether it is a coincidence that the owner’s husband had packed up and left without a word. When they discover the victim’s identity, it seems more than chance that the victim’s next-door-neighbour has also left her home, leaving a note for her husband begging him not to look for her. Most important and worrying of all is the question of what has happened to the victim’s small son. When another body turns up in mid-Wales the case grows even darker and more complex, and its solution hinges on whether Julie can win the confidence of a badly traumatised ex-serviceman. 

Rather to be Pitied is the second book in the series featuring Julie Kite and the ranks and relationships of the police team were slightly confusing in the first few chapters for a reader who had not read the first book. Apart from that, it was excellent in every way. The plot was complex but coherent and intriguing, and the descriptions of the Welsh countryside were vivid and evocative. Above all, the characterisation was superb; the whole police team were realistic and likeable, and both Julie Kite and Craig Swift were thoroughly engaging characters. I would recommend Rather to be Pitied to any reader anyone who enjoys an intelligent police procedural with an awareness of social issues. A page turner.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Jan Newton grew up in Manchester and Derbyshire, spending her formative years on the back of a pony, exploring the hills and moorland around her home. She lived and worked in London and Buckinghamshire for 19 years until moving to Wales in 2005. Jan has won several writing competitions, including the Allen Raine Short Story competition, the WI Lady Denman Cup, and the Oriel Davies Gallery competition for nature-writing. She has been published in New Welsh Review. Remember No More is her first novel.
Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

 To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title. 

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