Monday, September 28, 2015

In Bitter Chill: Sarah Ward


In Bitter Chill is about the abduction of two very young girls while walking to school. Rachel is returned to her family, but Sophie is never found. Over thirty years later, Sophie's mother is found dead in a hotel room on the anniversary of her daughter's disappearance, and all evidence points to suicide. Everyone wonders what triggered her to commit suicide so many years after the incident, and the police consider reopening the investigation of Sophie's abduction.

Rachel's life is turned upside down by the new attention she is getting and it brings her buried feelings about the event to the surface. The story moves between 1978, when the crime occurred, and the police investigation in the present. Rachel plays a big part in both of these. Although she has never been able to remember anything about what happened after she was abducted up to the the time she was found, she begins to want to make some sense of what happened.


The unfolding of the story is very well done and kept me absorbed from beginning to end. All of the primary characters were very interesting and fleshed out very well. Rachel is a genealogist and has her own business doing research for clients. Thus she is well-equipped to follow up on some clues herself.

The first chapter is a perfect introduction to Detective Inspector Sadler and his team. Detective Sergeant Damian Palmer, who took the job to be closer to his fiance, is like a younger version of Sadler. Detective Constable Connie Childs is a local; she brings an understanding of the community to the job. Connie is also the most prominently featured detective in this book. They work for Bampton CID in Derbyshire.
Bampton had started off, like many others in England, as a place of trade. Tourists were often surprised to find that the picturesque Peak town also supported working businesses, a continual gripe with locals trying to find parking spaces during the summer. A cattle market had been in existence since 1309, but Bampton's pinnacle had been during the nineteenth century when a canal had been built to facilitate the movement of goods in and out of the town. The canal had carried coal from the mine thirty miles south and limestone from the nearby quarries. The fact that it had now become a tourist stop had only added to Bampton's image of itself. An air of self-satisfaction was the legacy of its affluent Victorian heritage.
Another element I enjoyed is the exploration of family and community relationships. Rachel has had close relationships with both her mother and her grandmother, but her father died before she was born. Sophie's mother was a loner before and after Sophie disappeared. The detectives talk to many in the community who were around when Sophie disappeared.

I highly recommend this book. This is Sarah Ward's debut novel, but it is hard to tell that it is her first book. It is a police procedural, one of my favorite types of crime fiction, and I especially liked that it had strong female characters.

The book was published on July 2nd, 2015 in the UK. It will be published on September 29th, 2015 here in the US.

Also see:



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Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2015 (orig. pub. in UK)
Length:       314 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Setting:      Derbyshire, UK
Genre:       Police procedural
Source:      Provided by the author and the publisher for review


22 comments:

  1. Well, I just have to get this one now - thanks Tracy!

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    1. Definitely, Sergio. I was really impress by this book, as I sure you can tell.

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  2. I agree with your assessment of In Bitter Chill. This has so many elements of a traditional mystery, yet is set in the current day.

    One aspect that I like is that the reader and detectives are learning of new clues at the same time. There are really no surprises if one is closely following the story, anticipating every discovery. The plot is very well laid out.

    And there is not a lot of gratuitous violence and brutality.

    All in all, the perfect book for a rainy weekend, with tea and cookies.

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    1. You are right, Kathy. No violence and brutality and an intriguing story. It was hard to put down.

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  3. I've just read this one too and enjoyed it very much - interesting look at how events can impact people for many years to come. Great review.

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    1. You are right, Bernadette. That was another aspect I liked. I like police procedurals where you get to know the people affected by the crime as much as the policemen. And I liked the way we see how members of the community were affected by the abduction.

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  4. I'm so very glad you enjoyed this one, Tracy. I think Sarah does a terrific job of evoking the setting and of weaving the past/present stories together.

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    1. I am hoping that this is going to be a series, Margot. I thought I read that somewhere, but I wasn't sure.

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  5. I have a copy of this book and your review makes me want to run over and pick it up right now. However, I'm in the middle of something else. Moving it up the stack that lives in my mind. LOL

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    1. I am sure you will enjoy this book when you get to it, Kay. And I look forward to your thoughts on it.

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  6. Great review, but I'm still undecided whether to add it to the list or not. On the upside all the reviews are good and I probably don't read enough female authors. On the downside, I'm not exactly hurting for books to read already and when would I get to it?

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    1. I would recommend this to almost everyone who reads crime fiction, Col, but I will admit it does not fit into your usual reading, which is on the gritty side. However, should you be so inclined, it is a great story and definitely not anywhere close to cozy. Traditional, as Kathy D. notes, but not cozy.

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    2. Off on a tangent - I saw another Larry D. Sweazy book comes out soon. I haven't yet checked if its the same characters and town as SEE ALSO MURDER.

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    3. Col, I had the impression that it was a mystery but not a follow up on SEE ALSO MURDER. But I do hope he does another one in the same setting; I would be curious how it would be handled.

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  7. Exactly. Traditional but not cozy. I dislike most cozies. There is some violence written about on the pages and hints of personal intimacy, but definitely not a cozy.

    And, yes, a second one is in the works. Sarah Ward did continue the series and she's working on it now with her editors.

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    1. Kathy, thanks for that information. Last night I read a comment on Sarah's blog that indicated that also, so I will update the post when I have time to note that there will be a 2nd book. I am looking forward to it.

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  8. Great review Tracy. I plan to read it sometime this year or next. It's been getting good reviews so I can't wait to see for myself.

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    1. Thanks, Keishon. I am sure you will like it when you read it.

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  9. Thanks for the shoutout and yes - I totally back your recommendation. A really good read.

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    1. I was so pleased when I read the story, a wonderful police procedural plus so much more. And I am glad that there will be another book with these characters.

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  10. Tracy, I enjoyed Sarah's debut too, though my review of her book has been pending for months now. I want to do justice to it but I haven't been in the frame to write anything in recent weeks.

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    1. I look forward to seeing your review for this book when you do post it, Prashant.

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