Well, here it is. Bethulia is officially launched today. My tenth novel – tenth published, that is, though probably my thirtieth in all. I’m venturing into new territory with this one. I mean geographical territory. I have set my previous books in West Wales, mostly north Pembrokeshire, where I live, and in Lyford which is a fictional version of Luton, where I used to live– oh and some set on one of Neptune’s moons. where I have never lived. This one is firmly on planet Earth, mostly in Oxfordshire, where I have… Have I ever mentioned that I was at St Anne’s College in Oxford, studying law?
If I have, I was both lying and telling the truth (something that features quite a lot in Bethulia). My headmaster at Sixth Form sent me there for a weekend introduction to Law, because he thought that was what I should study. I thought otherwise, so three days at St Anne’s (disappointingly un-Gothic), listening to lectures by a solicitor (boring), a barrister (outrageously wealthy), and a judge (thought poor people would welcome the chance to serve a prison sentence instead of having to pay a fine), was the sum total of my Oxford studies. Been there since, of course, and further afield.
I have written scenes in Oxford itself, but I hesitate to trespass onto Inspector Morse territory too blatantly. Bethulia primarily features a house in a fictional village, somewhere beyond the ring road, towards the Cotswolds, and a Thames Valley police station that is somewhere in the same direction. I wasn’t writing a travelogue, so I didn’t see the need to be too specific.
Bethulia is a book about family ties, even if the families are unofficial. Three girls, Alison, Danny and Jude are sworn blood-sisters as children, but can their tight bond survive adulthood and the arrival of men? Apparently not. When Simon Delaney sweeps Alison off her feet into marriage, the other two swallow their jealousy for the sake of Alison’s happiness. But when she dies, by suicide, Simon is now fair game, and they both want him. How far are either of them prepared to go to have him? What price sisterhood now?
Meanwhile, DC Rosanna Quillan, bent on investigating Alison’s death, is really on a quest to lay to rest her own family tragedy. As a child, she failed to protect her mother from an abusive husband, and the guilt pushes her to find resolution for other cases, like Alison Delaney’s. She watches Jude and Danny fight for the guilty widower, wondering if they realise that he’s not a prize but poison. What can she do to stop another tragedy? It’s a battle that only one will survive.
The action does move out of Oxfordshire, into my home territory of West Wales, this time to the Teifi estuary. The converted boathouse, called Bethulia, is purely fictional, but the area is real, blue saltwater at high tide and mud creeks as low. Definitely somewhere suitable for a quiet rural retreat. Somewhere for resolution.