Its ten days until Christmas and Tracey Uphill, a precocious eight year old, has failed to return from Sunday school after her young mother is delayed by a late punter. The case is initially assigned to the fastidious Inspector Allen, but when he becomes ill it’s passed to irascible Inspector Jack Frost. Into the bargain comes the reluctant Detective Constable Clive Barnett, the Chief Constable’s son, reassigned from London to provincial Denton. With the snow falling and the temperature below freezing, finding Tracey is a priority, but wherever Frost goes chaos follows and soon he is juggling a number of cases, bumbling from one clue to another, messing up the paperwork, and bamboozling his boss, Superintendent Mullet.
Frost at Christmas is the first book in this delightful six book series. Frost is introduced as a befuddled, conniving, sarcastic, and insolent cop, promoted beyond his capabilities, who tackles crimes seemingly without rhyme or reason. Every one of his actions seem designed to be as inefficient as possible and annoy those around him, yet Frost receives loyalty from most of his colleagues as, at heart, he’s a lovable rogue whose two commitments are to catch the bad guys and to share any plaudits. Wingfield’s characterization is excellent, with every character well penned. The writing is light and comic, the story racing along at a cracking pace. My only gripe was the improbability of the interconnections between the plotlines, which were really not needed as what ties the strands together is Frost, not spurious sub-plots. Frost at Christmas was an entertaining Christmas day read, and I’d recommend the series to all crime fiction fans. My review of Winter Frost is here.