Hell hath no fury

Rural uplands somewhere in Mid Wales

Jan Newton: Remember No More
Honno Press 2017

Detective Sergeant Julie Kite has upped sticks from Manchester to rural Mid Wales, her transfer determined by her husband Adam accepting a post in a local school, teaching history. Not unexpectedly, she’s already conflicted about the prospect, not least because Adam has strayed down the path of dalliance in the recent past.

And on her first day in her new job she finds she’s landed slap bang in the middle of a murder investigation.

The cover strapline to Remember No More is ‘Bad blood runs in families’, harking back to the truism that in rural communities not only is everyone likely to know everyone else’s businessr but also that they’re likely to be related, however distantly. Gareth Watkin has been found murdered — shot through the head — on a lonely stretch of mountain, and suspicion immediately alights on his brother; however, others in the family seem to have secrets they’re reluctant to share. There’s also Stephen Collins entering the frame: he’s a criminal who once vowed vengeance on duty solicitor Gareth and on arresting officer Gordon Price for his incarceration following a very nasty crime, and who has just been released from Manchester prison with a bad dose of religion.

This debut crime novel from Jan Newton as well as being very readable has the ring of truth: the author herself is a Mancunian relocated to Mid Wales. Her creation DS Kite is just the latest incomer to this area (mid-Powys around the Epynt and the so-called Wells towns) — Llanwyrtyd Wells, for example, welcomed young Czechoslovak Jewish refugees during the war. However, local feeling is naturally still rankled by the conversion of Mynydd Epynt to an army firing range which at the beginning of the war forced established families to move without any form of compensation. In this historically complex cultural terrain Julie has next to no time to find her feet whilst avoiding stepping on those of others.

As a police procedural Remember No More works well, giving us glimpses of how local police stations might function (though there is no indication of impending funding cuts, as has been happening in real life) and of how personnel might cope under professional and personal pressures. In terms of the principal whodunit a likely perpetrator is flagged up fairly early on, the only real puzzle being motive, only revealed in detail towards the end; but there are additional mysteries simmering along, making this a satisfying read and a rich portrait of relationships.

In particular, Julie Kite is an engaging creation — bright, sparky, intuitive but anxious — with a marriage to rescue and new colleagues to work with. She makes understandable mistakes but proves a reliable support to her immediate superior (the bigger-than-life DI Swift) as well as steering a difficult path through established station dynamics and thwarted ambitions.

Remember No More is promoted as ‘a DS Kite mystery’ and so I very much hope to hear more about her in succeeding volumes. Will she continue to shine in her new placement? Will her spouse continue to prove reliable? And will she really feel that Mid Wales is home? Honno, an imprint established to publish more female Welsh writers, has done well with this title, despite the odd typos (mostly to do with misplaced quotation marks and the occasional missing word). There’s heart to this bit of crime fiction in which women play key roles, balanced with a warning to beware those who feel scorned and abandoned.

Wild Wales

In the Ultimate Reading Challenge this falls into the category of a book set in a place I live in, though strictly speaking the action occurs a little north of my home; however, this is rural Wales we’re talking about, where boundaries are more fluid

22 thoughts on “Hell hath no fury

  1. Very interesting. It sounds like more than a mystery, also a study on town dynamics and relationships. I love books like that. It’s also neat that it’s placed where you live in, widely speaking. You can relate to the atmosphere. If I read a mystery, it has to have something more such as this.

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    1. Some crime mysteries I feel are little more than games played by the author, Silvia, but I like those where I can engage with the principal characters and also get a sense of the setting and, as you say, respond to the atmosphere.

      The Simenon novel I’m currently reading is set in Holland and features Inspecteur Maigret in rather different surroundings than he’s used to; so rather like this Welsh policier (I do like this French term for the genre!) it features a sort of fish out of water, an outsider operating in an established community to solve a mystery.

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      1. I do like the current one you are reading too, the “fish out of the water” concept.
        I need to read a mystery for Back to the Classics, 50 years old or older, and I think I will go for a Dorothy Sayers or an Agatha Christy. (The dystopia I bought following your recommendation, could it be classified as a mystery too?)

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        1. Sadly, though it is a mystery in a generalised sense, no it’s not, at least not a crime mystery! The ‘fish out of water’ motif is however very common in crime fiction, isn’t it, a device to introduce an outsider into the scenario who is then able to see things as they are or in a completely new light.

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    1. I know you like classic crime novels (and it’s hard to imagine a genre you haven’t sampled!) so I think you’d enjoy this, Nikki — for me it helped that when we lived in Pembrokeshire we were right in the middle of an upland farming area like this so it all felt very familiar.

      And I’m sure you can squeeze just one little extra book on your TBR shelves, hmm? 😁

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  2. MrsB_inthehills

    I’ve been away and out of signal for a week or so and am now catching up – this looks exactly the sort of book I’d enjoy, so thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, just read about (and retweeted) your Croatian holiday and remembering the old slogan ‘Let the train take the strain”… Ha! Will post some comments in a day or so.

      Happy for you to have my copy of the Jan Newton book. Let me know if you’ d like it (though we’re not here for a couple of days).

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  3. Pingback: Winding Up the Week #23 – Book Jotter

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