Bethulia: Truly Unreliable.

In my first published novel, A Time For Silence, there are two parallel stories. One follows Sarah as she investigates the mystery of her grandparents. The other is the story of her grandmother Gwen. The first is littered with confusion, as Sarah misunderstands just about everything that she discovers. The second is the truth, as it happened. That is why I wrote Sarah’s story in the first person and Gwen’s in the third.

A third person narration can plant red herrings, of course, or most detective fiction wouldn’t work. But it cannot lie. A first person narrative can do anything.

I have employed the same… method? trick? device? in Bethulia, with two parallel stories.

Here is the scene set. Three girls, Alison, Danielle (Danny) and Judith (Jude) have grown up as sisters. Closer than sisters even, determined that nothing will ever separate them. But once they’re adults, hormones intervene and gorgeous Simon Delaney has come amongst them, sweeping Alison off her feet into marriage. It should be a perfect match but a few years on, Alison is dead and it seems clear that she has committed suicide. But was she pushed into it?

In one story, the police investigation is told in the third person, from the point of view of DC Rosanna Quillan, a young detective naively dedicated to the truth. She is supposed to be detached and analytical but she finds herself emotionally involved, because she instantly recognises echoes of her own mother’s fate. Convinced that Simon Delaney is responsible for his wife’s death, she continues to investigate, even when the police have officially dismissed it as simple suicide.

But there  is also the story of Jude, told in the first person, as she returns to Britain to find one of her closest friends dead. How honest is Jude about her own feelings? She claims that she wants to look after Simon because Alison would have wanted her to, but has she always harboured strong feelings towards him? Has her friend’s death released her from the jealousy she’d felt from the first moment Simon appeared on the scene? Is she moving in on him for Alison’s sake or her own?

Then there’s Danny to add to the mix. The third inseparable friend, but Alison’s death has opened up a gulf between the two survivors. Danny is seriously ill, so Jude wants to help her, but Danny is also openly consumed with hatred towards Simon, insisting he’s responsible for Alison’s death. Is she really angry on Alison’s behalf or is she a woman scorned, having been secretly involved with Simon and now smarting that Jude has displaced her? They are both determined to have Simon, so where does their friendship stand? In such a situation honesty is invariably manipulated. When Jude dgoes out of her way to help Danny in her recovery, is she looking out for her old friend or trying to make sure that Danny and Simon are separated for good? Jude is responsible for her own account. Maybe she wants to deceive the world, or maybe she’s deceiving herself.

A third person narrative can be deceptive too, of course. There are no lies in DC Rosanna’s story but her dilemma is choosing just how much to reveal. She might be committed to the truth and nothing but the truth, but is she bound to reveal the whole truth? You’ll have to find out, won’t you?


Out now, available from
and Diamond Books.

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