THE WELSH CRIME WRITING COLLECTIVE
Crime Cymru is a diverse collective of Welsh crime writers, spanning crime fiction and non-fiction.
Crime Cymru has three main aims.
– To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales
– To help in the development of new writing talent
– To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world.
2020, a year that brought us Covid 19, months during which many brilliant books have been produced but have struggled to be found by readers. Here is the list of books by our authors that have arrived this year or are in the pipeline: https://bit.ly/2Q2rqpA. I have read quite a few of them but have been remiss in writing reviews, so have set myself the task of catching up over the next few weeks
I will start the series by my review of The Covenant, by Thorne Moore, a prequel to A Time For Silence, and published by Honno only yesterday, the 20th August 2020.
Leah is tied to home and hearth by debts of love and duty – duty to her father, turned religious zealot after the tragic death of his eldest son, Tom; love for her wastrel younger brother Frank’s two motherless children. One of them will escape, the other will be doomed to follow in their grandfather’s footsteps.
At the close of the 19th century, Cwmderwen’s twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches are hard won, and barely enough to keep body and soul together. But they are all the Owens have and their rent is always paid on time. With Tom’s death a crack is opened up and into this chink in the fabric of the family step Jacob John and his wayward son Eli, always on the lookout for an opportunity.
Saving her family, good and bad, saving Cwmderwen, will change Leah forever and steal her dreams, perhaps even her life
The first thing I became aware of when reading The Covenant was of being drawn so quickly into the world of Cwmderwen. The immediacy of a sense of place is something I’ve been conscious of before in the work of this author. Thorne Moore has a talent for description: of the changes in nature throughout the seasons, the unpredictability of the weather and in her absolute ability to bring the countryside of Pembrokeshire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century alive, both in The Time for Silence (her first novel set around Cwmderwen), and in The Covenant.
Told in the first person point of view of the protagonist, Leah Owen, a woman driven by duty, loyalty and love for her family (who always expect too much of her), the story follows her life through the decades. And, though the core of this thoroughly rounded character remains the same, the outward changes in her, wrought by life’s disappointments and regrets are inevitable as the years’ progress. I found myself wanting her to rebel, to question the road she’s forced to follow, not only through the whims and vagaries of the farm’s land; “twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches” , but by the wishes of Thomas Owen, her father, Tadu, who rules the family through his inflexible translation of the Bible.
This is a man who is unbending: in his control over his wife ( a control that leads to disaster), in his dismissal of his two eldest daughters, in his view of Leah’s younger brother, Frank – the “prodigal” son; a son who goes his own way, despite his father’s violent punishments, and whose story inevitably shapes Leah’s life, In contrast Thomas is unchanging in his love for Leah – but there is a proviso; it is only on his terms. She will be the dutiful daughter, forced to follow his rules. This is a wonderfully portrayed character underlying the basis of the actions of the family. Though Leah is the protagonist and it is her story we follow, it is Tadu who is at the patriarchal hub of the wheel and, like spokes on that wheel, are spread a whole cast of supporting characters.
Even the cottage of Cwmderwen itself becomes a character with its “…solid stones and heavy timber (that) seem to sink themselves into the black earth…” yet there is that crack in the wall of the parlour, the “Death” room, that Leah’s demented sister traces with her finger, peers through – and Leah wonders if Mary can see “all those who have passed through, those Leah could not see…”. The crack used as a metaphor for the fundamental weaknesses of each character within the family and the flaws in the determination to hold on to the the “twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches”
As I previously mentioned, the author has a talent for bringing a Welsh ambience of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century alive, both in The Time for Silence and in The Covenant. This is awareness is equally obvious in the dialogue, where the Welsh language intermingles with English. And there is never any doubt as to which character is speaking.
Subtly threaded throughout the story are themes of duty, love – familial and romantic, pride,despair, loneliness, death and guilt – what more can one ask of a story set around families
As a reader, my favourite style of story is character led rather than plot. In The Covenant, I found the best of both worlds; a gripping story line with really believable characters. I cannot recommend The Covenant highly enough.
Although The Covenant is the prequel of A Time For Silence, both books are also stand alone and can be read as completely separate novels.
About the author:
Thorne Moore grew up in Luton, where her father was a Labour councillor and her mother once got the sack for calling her boss a male chauvenist pig, so she developed strong views about the way the world works. Her headmaster advised her to study law, but that implied a career in law, and the only career she wanted was as a writer, so she studied history instead, at Aberystwyth, and nine years later, after a spell working in a library, she returned to Wales, to beautiful and inspiring Pembrokeshire, to run a restaurant with her sister, Liz.
She did finally get her law degree, through the Open University, but these days, she writes, as she had always intended, and when she’s not writing,she makes miniature furniture, through her craft business, Pear Tree Miniatures, and occasionally she teaches family history.
History, personal and social, rather than political treaties and battles, remain a major interest, spurred along by her present home, a Victorian farmhouse that stands on the site of a Mediaeval manor. When she write about crime, as a traumatic turn of events that shakes people’s lives, she is primarily concerned with its causes and far-reaching consequences of actions, even through generations, rather than the thrill of the actions themselves, or the intricacies of forensic detection.