A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward (Minotaur, 2016) is the second in a promising new contemporary British detective series set in Derbyshire in central northern England. Ward reviews crime fiction on her blog Crimepieces (https://crimepieces.com/), and she has reviewed for Euro Crime and CrimeSquad. She is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian crime novels.
DI Francis Sadler and his team in Bampton are called to the site of an abandoned World War I mortuary where the body of Andrew Fisher lies with a large gunshot wound, leaving no question about the cause of his death. Sadler recognizes the victim as an old high school classmate and is deeply shocked, because Fisher’s wife Lena Gray was convicted of Fisher’s murder more than 10 years previously. The subsequent investigation immediately becomes complex: Who was the man Lena Gray confessed to killing? Where has Fisher been for the past 12 years? Who killed him less than 24 hours before the discovery of his body? In addition, an internal police probe is initiated to learn how the inquiry into the first killing failed to establish identity conclusively. Many of the individuals involved in the first investigation are still actively serving on the police force, and demotions and dismissals over the monumental foul-up hang ominously in the air.
The elaborate unusual plot has multiple threads that come together in the end without a dropped stitch. I had some trouble keeping the supporting characters sorted. Some were associated with the initial investigation, some with the current one, and some turned out to be linked with both.
DI Sadler and his minions DC Palmer and DC Childs make a good team, with Sadler’s boss Superintendent Llewellyn juggling oversight of the investigation into the recent murder while doing damage control with his superiors on the earlier bungled one. The interactions of Sadler, Palmer, and Childs foreshadow plot lines in future books. Sadler and Childs are single whereas Palmer is recently married and having second thoughts about it. Sadler’s sister keeps introducing eligible women to him; Childs realizes she’s attracted to Sadler and Palmer but wants to focus on her career and recognizes she can’t have both. I hope Ward is astute enough in future books to continue to concentrate more on plot than on relationships.
In light of recent events in this country I was particularly intrigued with the way an unlicensed World War I Luger was viewed by the unsuspecting civilians who found it.
This story is not a fast-moving action adventure. Rather, it mimics quite well the drudgery of a real-life investigation with its attendant false starts and unproductive lines of inquiry. A welcome addition to the never long enough lists of British police procedurals.
· Hardcover: 384 pages
· Publisher: Minotaur Books (September 27, 2016)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 1250069181
· ISBN-13: 978-1250069184
Aubrey Hamilton © 2017
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal IT projects by day and reads mysteries at night.