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Thursday 5 January 2023

‘Bethulia’ by Thorne Moore

Published by Diamond Crime,
21 November 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-915649-22-5 (PB)

Just when you think Thorne Moore has found a niche she’s comfortable writing in, she upends expectations and goes off in a different direction. Historical mystery, science fiction, even a touch of the supernatural: she’s explored them all.

But she’s no literary butterfly; if she finds a niche she likes she returns to it now and again, but always with a new twist. With Bethulia, she’s back in domestic noir, finding a different perspective on coercive control and its ramifications.

Alison, Danny and Jude have enjoyed an unbreakable friendship since childhood – until Alison meets Mr Perfect, the charming and ambitious Simon Delaney. But things go badly wrong, and Alison tragically commits suicide. Or does she? Danny is convinced Simon is responsible and tells the police so. But Simon has an unimpeachable alibi, and Alison has a history of depression. Danny withdraws her allegation – but by now Jude has got to know Simon, and with apparently unseemly haste they are in a relationship. The coroner’s verdict of suicide goes unchallenged, and very soon afterwards Jude and Simon are married. But they have reckoned without DC Rosanna Quillan, who saw her own mother suffer at the hands of a bully who drove her to take her own life. Rosanna continues to investigate, despite orders from her senior officers to drop the case. 

Thorne Moore’s greatest talent is developing characters who live and breathe and make the reader not only care what happens to them, but also want to know exactly what they are up to behind the veil of mystery and misdirection she weaves so skilfully. The women are all different, all vivid and real, physically and in personality. Simon Delaney is the arch-abuser, all charm and good looks to the outside world, but behind closed doors adept at the kind of abuse that leaves no visible bruises. The supporting characters, too, could walk into your home and be instantly recognized: nosy neighbours, the gay couple who become involved, even Rosanna’s boyfriend, boss and colleagues.

The locations, too, are so well drawn that you could find your way around them without a guide: the bleak and uninviting Delaney family home, the remote cottage in west Wales, the Oxford flat Rosanna visits in the worst snowstorm of the winter. 

It all knits together to create a story which will sometimes leave you wondering exactly what is going on, and at other times make you smile as the pieces begin to drop into place and cosmic justice starts to prevail as it always must in this kind of fiction. By the end, the important thing is not so much what happens as how. And once again Thorne Moore has pulled something special out of the bag.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Thorne Moore grew up in Luton, near London, but has lived in Pembrokeshire in West Wales for the last 35 years. She writes psychological crime, or domestic noir, with an historical twist, focusing on the cause and consequences of crimes rather than on the details of the crimes themselves. A Time For Silence, set in Pembrokeshire, was published by Honno in 2012. It was followed by Motherlove and The Unravelling, set partly in a fictional version of Luton. Shadows, published by Endeavour in 2017, is set in an old house in Pembrokeshire, and is paired with Long Shadows, which explained the history and mysteries of the same house from Medieval times to the late Victorian period.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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