Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review of A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward (Faber and Faber, 2016)

Lena Grey has recently been released from prison for the murder of her husband. When the body of a man is found shot dead in an abandoned morgue the police are mortified to discover that it is the same man. So, who was the original victim? Why did Lena kill him and claim he was her husband? And who killed the husband fifteen years after his original supposed death? Detective Inspector Francis Sadler and his small team of Detective Sergeant Damian Palmer and Detective Constable Connie Childs of the Derbyshire police seek answers to both the old and new case. So does Lena’s sister, Kat, who is receiving strange gifts. However, Lena has disappeared and clues seem thin on the ground.

A Deadly Thaw is the second book in the DC Connie Childs series. In this outing she and the rest of her team are investigating the murder of a man believed to have been murdered fifteen years previously. It’s an interesting hook that Ward just about makes credible, though it does require a bit of suspension of disbelief given it occurred in a small town, rides on the basis that only one person who could recognize the body saw it before it was cremated and that was his wife who was also the murderer, and the police did no other checks. The story then largely unfolds as a typical police procedural, though two other strands are interwoven: a thread following the sister of the woman convicted fifteen years previously for the man’s first murder; and flashbacks to the time leading up to the first murder. The former provides another perspective on the case and adds a couple of prospective suspects, the latter gives some wider context to the case. Set in a relatively quiet town in Derbyshire, the sedate pace of the place is mirrored somewhat in the tale and, while the story ticks along in a series of short chapters and there are some action points, the key element is the characters and their interactions. The central character is Connie Childs, who has the drive to succeed but is nonetheless a team player and is no ‘super-woman’, unlike many single-minded maverick or quirky fiction cops. The rest of the team is similarly made up of fairly ordinary coppers and the town by normal folk with their various issues. Indeed, a nice aspect to the story is the very ordinariness of the place, people and crimes.  The result is a reasonably engaging tale that is as much about the relationships between characters as it is about solving the murder.

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