Jan Newton grew up in Manchester and Derbyshire, spending her formative years on the back of a pony, exploring the hills and moorland around her home. She lived and worked in London and Buckinghamshire for 19 years until moving to Wales in 2005, where she learnt to speak fluent Welsh. Jan has won several writing competitions, including the Allen Raine Short Story competition, the WI Lady Denman cup, and the Oriel Davies Gallery competition for nature-writing. She has been published in New Welsh Review.
Jan Newtons debut novel is a triumph a gripping, beautifully paced page-turner with a touch of Y Gwyll/Hinterland about it. There is plenty of sub-plot to keep you guessing and double-guessing, but not so much as to confuse; and there arent too many frustrating red herrings to lead you astray Newtons plotting is intricate enough without them. I was chuffed that I guessed whodunnit quite early on, because there are a couple of big yet carefully embedded clues, but I still wasnt really sure until the end, which is the stuff of great storytelling. Julie and Adam Kite are moving from Manchester to mid-Wales to make a fresh start. Adam has been playing away from home and their marriage is in trouble. Adams solution is to take up a teaching post in mid-Wales, and Julie secures a promotion to Detective Sergeant in the Mid Wales Police. Its quite a gamble, with the change taking them away from family, friends and the familiar environment of the city. Adam finds them an isolated cottage to rent, and immediately falls in love with the place, making the most of his time before term starts to explore the countryside on foot and by bicycle and to get to know the neighbours. Julie, instantly plunged into a new detective team in unfamiliar surroundings, is less sure. And it doesnt help that on day one there is a suspicious death in the hills. Gareth Watkin, local solicitor, chairman of the Round Table, all round good egg, has been found with a firearm wound to the head. Or, as it turns out, two wounds: an initial one that killed him, caused by a handgun, and a subsequent one caused by a shotgun. It soon transpires that Gareths brother, Milos, was the first to find the body and a note in Welsh, Mae nl (Its back), which he interprets as meaning Gareths cancer has returned. Assuming that Gareth has committed suicide, Milos tries to conceal this to save the family from the pain and shame of another suicide by shooting his already-dead brother again with his shotgun. Crazy thinking with a bizarre emotional logic to it. But the investigation shows that Gareths cancer has not come back and that he is in good health. And, if he committed suicide, where is the pistol he used? If his cancer has not returned, then what does the note mean, and why was it typed rather than handwritten? The more the police discover, the more baffled they become. Who is the man in black who keeps appearing in the distance? Is it the same man who turns up at Eileen Prices door when her husband Gordon, a former police officer, is out and leaves him a message: Im back and Im watching over you and your lovely wife? And who is distributing quotations from the Gospels about evil, repentance and forgiveness? DS Kite knows there is a missing link, but what is it? This bloody case, it was like plaiting fog. Mae nl  it could have meant it or he or even shes back So who is back, and why? And who murdered Gareth Watkin? Suzy Ceulan Hughes It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council. Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. -- Welsh Books Council