Review: Rather to Be Pitied grips you like piano wire

Background picture: Powys, Wales

Jon Gower

There’s a certain relish to opening the second book in a series of police mysteries, or procedurals, especially when the first one, ‘Remember No More’ was simply spot on. This was certainly the case with our first encounter with Julie Kite, displaced from the urban mayhem of Manchester to what should have been a quiet rural policing job in mid-Wales. But that was far from true, and she was confronted with the murder of a local solicitor very soon after arriving in her new patch.

Three months later DS Julie Kite now has to deal with not one but two grisly murders this time, complete with bludgeonings, garrotings and horrible drownings in farm cesspits. As if that wasn’t enough there’s also the case of an abducted child, so she’s under considerable pressure right from the off. But there’s also trouble at home, as her philandering man, Adam has been contacted by a jealous ex-girlfriend, not to mention the fact that he’s gone full-on vegan, whereas Julie likes her pies and Chinese takeaways. And just to top it all off, her parents have not only been burgled but been assaulted into the bargain.

 

Compelling

Like its predecessor this is a gripping read, confidently plotted so that the complex storylines twist in on themselves like tourniquets. There are hints of modern-day slavery in dark folds in the hills and a cast of suspects that are more than sufficient to keep even the most eagle-eyed, observant and retentive reader guessing, pretty much until the number of pages between thumb and index finger tell you there isn’t much of the book left to go.

There’s the domineering former Army officer who runs a sort of respite centre for former squaddies, each of them suffering from PTSD as a consequence of their war experiences. And there’s the monstrous Jason Quigley, a drug addict with a sliver of ice running through his heart who is not only easily capable of bumping off a rival pusher but regularly and violently beats his partner, casually kills his own dog with a crossbow and might easily hurt or harm his own son. It’s the son, Sean who lies at the damaged heart of this compelling tale, as much of the action revolves around attempts to hide him or find him or just keep the frightened little boy away from his psychopathic dad.

D S Julie Kite, meanwhile, is not only a likeable, affable heroine but she also is very good at her job, not least because she is entirely in her element in a post mortem, unlike her boss, who has a queasy stomach on such occasions. Ok, there are still things she has to learn about working in Powys, not least the fact that she is usually wearing shoes when she gets out of the car, and thus has to squelch her way to crime scenes in them, very much regretting her lack of wellies. But she is very much settling in, even if her fast journeys in the car with her superior Craig Swift give her the heebies, as the country lanes don’t seem to be designed for such speed.

There are a few clues in ‘Rather to be Pitied’ about what might lie ahead for Julie Kite in her own future – a keenly developing interest in pathology work for instance – to speculate that Jan Newton’s got another DS Kite mystery lined up. One very much hopes so. Newton has a sure-fire sense of plot and an instinct for drip-drip-dripping the clues along the way so that the reader feels he is in good hands. In very good hands. Gripping you like piano wire, or florist’s wire as it twists into a deadly garotte.

Rather to Be Pitied by Jan Newton is published by Honno, costs £8.99 and can be bought here.

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