Publishing Soon: Bethulia and the art of detection.

It’s a new year so it must be time for a new book. I don’t really stick to specific genres, since I’ve written historical fiction, futuristic science fiction, family sagas and domestic noir. I am not really sure if my latest book, Bethulia, adds another genre of detective crime, or if, like everything else I’ve written, it is just a book about characters. There is some new ground I haven’t frolicked on before. Bethulia is purely contemporary, not an historical novel, but you might call it Jacobean. As in Jacobean tragedy. And for the first time (and probably last), I do feature a police detective as a principal character.

My previous books have often been classified as crime novels, but I have always considered them psychological mysteries rather than police procedurals. It’s an artificial distinction, I know, because any police procedural worth its ridiculously low Kindle price will be a psychological mystery too, digging deep into the minds of perpetrators, victims and almost always the detectives too. But with a traditional detective novel, the psychology is the colour and rounded dimension that brings life and human interest to the central plot: a puzzle that needs to be solved. Whereas my view of a psychological mystery is that the puzzle is of secondary importance, and the emotional involvement of all the characters personally and painfully involved is the main subject.

I do, of course, refute absolutely, the very idea that I might have resisted traditional detective fiction because I couldn’t be bothered to do the necessary research into police procedures. Even if it’s true. I could do the research. I have a few books, which are probably out of date. I have a law degree covering PACE (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) which is almost certainly out of date. I took a fascinating course on Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology, which means I could probably sex a skeleton if I had to, but despite my books frequently involving hidden bodies, I have never made any use of this. I have been glued to any number of TV detective shows, from Dixon of Dock Green onwards, but I have never been much interested in the finer details of who does what at which rank in a police station. Should that worry me? Other very well-known crime writers have got away with ignoring the realities by having chief inspectors and superintendents sniffing around on their own like maverick private eyes, instead of managing teams from an office. If I did write a police procedural, I might feel the need to do it properly, which would be a bore.

But I have never wanted to approach crime from the professionally detached viewpoint of a detective officer. I want total attachment, personal involvement and emotional turmoil. So in Bethulia, I have cheated and gone for the best of both worlds, with DC Rosanna Quillan who finds herself, despite her best efforts to remain cold and detached, emotionally involved in a case that should be of no concern to her whatsoever. Involved because it seems to mirror the trauma in her own history.

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