Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

A Deadly Thaw – Sarah Ward


Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction

The second in the Francis Sadler series set in the fictional town of Bampton in Derbyshire is written in Sarah Ward’s trademark style of an easy read in a book full of complexities.

After being released from prison Lena Fisher moved back into the family home with her younger sister Kat. The two girls had been close up until the close of their teenage years in the 1980s when Lena withdrew and pulled away from her sister but following her release from prison the two live in the large house bequeathed to them both following the death of their professional parents. Despite Kat’s ambivalence towards the house, because Lena feels a connection, the prospect of it being sold is slim and Kat’s job as a counsellor simply can’t fund the repairs desperately needed to stop the house crumbling further.

Once again the novel has its roots in the past with the convicted murderer, Lena Fisher, committing her crime in 2004. Lena murdered her husband by suffocating him in their marital bed and served twelve years in prison for her crime. The problem is that a man found in a disused World War One mortuary, fabulously named Hale’s End, appears to be the very same Andrew Fisher – now that’s a mystery as one man simply cannot die twice!

But before the body is formally identified Lena goes missing causing Kat to worry. Kat herself is sure she is being watched and maybe followed, and that feeling only intensifies when she is given strange gifts by a teenage boy. The first such gift is a gun dating back to the war. Meanwhile unsurprisingly the local police force are themselves being investigated into how a woman was convicted of killing the wrong man, so tensions are running high as DI Francis Sadler, DC Connie Childs and DS Damian Palmer find they need to delve back to the past in order to have any chance of working out what has happened in the present. As an aside, although DI Sadler gets to give his name to the series, in A Deadly Thaw the police’s actions are mostly seen through Connie’s eyes, herself a complex character and although there is rivalry between her and Damian Palmer the book doesn’t get bogged down in endless police politics, yet accurately reflects a close working relationship with all its pitfalls.

As I found in the Sarah Ward’s first book, In Bitter Chill, not only is the plot complex, the characters are a delight. Although I found Lena the most difficult to understand there is a wide range of people that walk and talk like real people do! The author takes real care to ensure that not one of the characters feels like they’ve been designed to move the plot along, these are people who matter in their own right and when we are not looking are moaning about the day they’ve had or that they forget their umbrella! As a reader we get the full picture through the eyes of Kat and the police. This author is determined to keep you hooked with the chapters often ending on a revelation which because the time period and often the point of view changes you have to hold that thought until you catch up with the thread a few chapters later. Sarah Ward owes me some sleep – I simply couldn’t put this book down.

Sarah Ward is most definitely in the bracket of female writers of crime fiction that use issues as a theme to underpin their storylines but manage to do it without reiterating every other page what that is. These are books that get under your skin as well as giving you a fantastic puzzle to solve. I’m really hoping we will be seeing more of Francis Sadler and his team before too long.

First Published UK: 30 August 2016
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

In Bitter Chill – Sarah Ward

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction

Sometimes when you start a book you just know that you are going to really enjoy it; this was one such book. This feeling transcends plot and characters and can only be put down to writing style, which is so much harder to define, so beyond saying the writing flows exceptionally well, I will leave it there.

The story starts way back in 1978 in Derbyshire when two young girls get into a car with a woman, only one of the girls returned, Rachel, and in the intervening years there has been no clue as to what happened to her friend Sophie.

In the present Sophie’s mother, is found dead in a hotel room, news that is quickly followed by the discovery of a body in nearby woods. These two events cause the police to take another look at the historic crime. Rachel is questioned but she is not able to remember anything more than she could as a young girl but this doesn’t stop DI Francis Sadler and DC Connie Childs believing that she must hold the key if only they can work out the right questions to ask.

This is a very easy book to read but don’t let that fool you into thinking that the plot and the characters are simplistic, far from it!!  With the strands in the past and present dexterously woven throughout the story there is a lot to ponder, not least Rachel’s fascination with ancestry. Unusually Rachel’s family tree concentrates on the women in her family with the roots of suspicion or even outright dislike of men, threading back through many generations. Rachel has used her interest in genealogy to build a career, she is no stranger to hunting through the archives on behalf of her clients; even the least astute reader can’t help but wonder how far back the seeds to the crimes were actually sown. However with the secrets in this Derbyshire town bubbling away below the surface the intrigue level is really high. My poor detective skills were on overdrive as I cycled through the normal motives drawing a blank in every direction.

Rachel is a great character, a woman who has been determined not to be defined by what happened to her as a child, but nor is she blasé about it. With fresh interest and new deaths the journalists are back and she is none too pleased to see them. It isn’t just Rachel’s character that feels so realistic, I don’t think I met one secondary or even minor character that I wasn’t equally convinced that I could meet out on the street.

This is a crime novel which certainly exceeded my expectations with all the elements that are required to successfully produce a high quality story all present and correct. The ending, which I often don’t mention was perfect, the book whilst having plenty of surprises does not bring a motive and character out of left field, rather staying true to the more ‘old-fashioned’ crime novels where the perpetrator is justly identified from combing the evidence which all makes for an incredibly satisfying read.

I am thrilled to see that Sarah has a second book due out in September 2016, A Deadly Thaw, because I will definitely be putting this author to the top of the ‘must-read” pile. In Bitter Chill was a book that was worth every last speck of the five stars I awarded it and better still is a book I can see myself re-reading in the future with just as much enjoyment.