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.
- Moira's review at Clothes in Books
- John Grant's review on Goodreads
- Jose Ignacio's review at A Crime is Afoot, which has links to many other reviews
- Read Chapter 1 (mentioned above) at CriminalElement.com
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2015 (orig. pub. in UK)
Length: 314 pages
Setting: Derbyshire, UK
Genre: Police procedural
Source: Provided by the author and the publisher for review