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In Bitter Chill – Sarah Ward

By Cleopatralovesbooks @cleo_bannister
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.

In Bitter Chill – Sarah Ward

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