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Parochial horrors

by
17 April 2012

Peggy Woodford finds a whodunnit failing in cumulative power

Vengeance Lies in Wait
Janice B. Scott

Createspace £4.90
(978-1-46623413-0)

THIS is Janice Scott’s third novel about the exploits of her heroine, the Revd Polly Hewitt. Hewitt is now the new rector of four rural parishes near Norwich, and knows that taking over the running of them from the part-time ordained local minister, Oswald Waters, after a long interregnum will inevitably bring difficulties.

Oswald has been keeping the seat warm for the eventual arrival of a new rector, and knows all the parishioners well. Tensions quickly arise between them, particularly as Polly is young, feisty, and pretty.

The novel begins well: a man is described dropping a frozen body into a grave dug ready for a funeral in the morning. In the background is a dark story of drug-dealing, murders, incest, and rape, but all this is narrated in a chatty, light style that lacks tension and con­trolled emotional focus. As a result, the terrible events that Scott describes lack density, and the plot unfolds in a sequential rather than cumulative manner. Thus, when a dead baby is left on Polly’s doorstep, the horror of this should have much greater impact on the reader than it has.

Though the plot itself is a good one, it is a book that is unlikely to appeal to anyone who is not a practising Christian, because Polly’s faith and that of her parishioners, and their moral dilemmas and appeals to God for help are con­stantly and explicitly spelt out. Sincerity of belief is best implicit in fiction; those who believe will see it, and those who do not but are interested in the story will not be put off.

An earlier book by Scott about Polly Hewitt, Babes and Sucklings (Writers Literary and Publishing Services) (Books, 25 March 2011), was very well printed and presented, but, alas! Vengeance Lies in Wait is not: the typeface is large and ugly, the text is full of small errors, and the page layout is very poor. This novel is self-published, and, as a result, the author would have no independent trained eyes editing her book.

This brings me to the main danger of self-publishing your book: it is natural to feel a great pride in what you have created, but inevit­ably you will be too close to it to see it objectively, and cut or rewrite. Online technology has made self-publishing widely avail­able and affordable, but, though independent online editorial services are also available, most writers are reluctant to spend more time and money before they launch their book.

Peggy Woodford is a novelist.

THE novel Stronger than the Sword is set in the English Civil War. Nicholas Wilkes is out searching for his own son, when he stumbles across an injured Royalist soldier. His decision to help changes life for the family, when some years later son Robert decides to trace the stranger who had been given help. He is diverted from this mission, but the two later meet unexpectedly. The Christian faith of the characters of Faith Cook’s novel makes an impact on their actions; throughout it is explicitly men­tioned (EP Books, £8.99; 978-0-85234-728-7).

THE novel Stronger than the Sword is set in the English Civil War. Nicholas Wilkes is out searching for his own son, when he stumbles across an injured Royalist soldier. His decision to help changes life for the family, when some years later son Robert decides to trace the stranger who had been given help. He is diverted from this mission, but the two later meet unexpectedly. The Christian faith of the characters of Faith Cook’s novel makes an impact on their actions; throughout it is explicitly men­tioned (EP Books, £8.99; 978-0-85234-728-7).

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