Sarah Ward’s second police procedural to link a present-day crime with Derbyshire’s recent past is a knockout. Certainly the best example of the genre I’ve read so far this year. The most difficult thing about reviewing it is explaining why I think that without giving too much away. But I’ll have a go.
Firstly there’s the story. It opens with a body being discovered in an abandoned building. Nothing very original there you might be thinking. But the dead man is quickly identified as Andrew Fisher; a man who was supposedly killed a decade ago. The husband who Lena Fisher has served an entire prison sentence for murdering. I’m not going to give you any more plot details but will say the twists kept coming and kept surprising me. Lots of novels have a good premise. The elevator pitch if you will. But A DEADLY THAW is one of the much rarer offerings that has an intriguing premise and manages to deliver ever more intrigue until the very end.
As with Ward’s first novel, 2015’s IN BITTER CHILL, I think the main character is DC Connie Childs but she is not such a lone wolf that she is able to investigate crime without assistance. Her boss, the enigmatic DI Francis Sadler, and fellow DC Damian Palmer are both very involved in the investigation. We are exposed to a little of their personal lives (but not too much) and we see how difficult and frustrating their professional lives can be. People lie and obfuscate and forget. And for every tip that leads somewhere useful there are a dozen or more that go nowhere but, of course, you don’t know which is which until the time is wasted. Who’d be a cop eh?
We also see a lot of the civilians who are involved in or impacted by the case in some way. I like that the book lets us see things from different perspectives, not just that of the police. Among the people we meet here are Lena Fisher and her sister Kat who has never known why her sister murdered her husband (or whoever he was) and is now caught up in more inexplicable mess brought into her life by her secretive sister. Their relationship is complex but believable.
It must be near-impossible for a genre author to come up with something even vaguely original these days but Sarah Ward’s mix of contemporary procedural and cold case storyline does so. I really liked the way A DEADLY THAW unfolded, showing how events of the past can have a long-lasting effect and also offering a sobering reminder that one person’s perspective on events is rarely the whole story. I think what I liked most about the book was its deliciously unsettling resolution. Sometimes doing the right thing is downright dangerous.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Faber & Faber, 2016
Book Series #2 in the Connie Childs series
Source of review copy I bought it