In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward – a review

I received a copy of this from netgalley earlier in the year, but for some reason it fell off my reading radar until a recent trip to Birmingham where I was lucky enough to devour it in a couple of sessions.
In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward starts off with the kidnapping of two young girls in 1978. Rachel and Sophie are both taken in broad daylight but only Rachel returns. 30 odd years later and Rachel is working as a genealogist in Derbyshire. She can’t remember what happened on the day of her kidnapping and has tried to move on with her life. Unfortunately the suicide of Sophie’s mother leads to a reopening of the case and with it the reawakening of old memories. After the suicide Detective Connie and her boss Sadler are asked to relook at the case and soon realise another recent murder may have connections with the kidnapping.
I really enjoyed this book. The character of Rachel was interesting, yet also a little annoying in places which is just how characters should be. Clearly you felt for her and what she had been through as a child but equally you do feel that she is a bit stupid and naïve at times. She spends her time researching other people’s family trees but ignores the missing parts of her own. Her concentration on only the female members of her family seems a bit at odds with someone who makes a living from researching peoples history. Equally both Connie and Sadler have good and bad characteristics. They are obviously both highly competent police officers, but still have flaws and backgrounds that make them human.
I enjoyed the occasional glimpses back into the 70’s, yet these flashbacks were not as annoying as they can sometimes be in novels. They just added to the atmosphere of the novel. It did take a little while for me to get into the story but once I did I was hooked. The novel is a good mix of family drama, police procedural, and murder mystery. All three elements were there in equal measure and all complemented the other. I especially liked the fact that the stories were told almost in a real time way – Rachel would find something out and it would be a while later before the police found out the same thing, rather than it all just coming out at once.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel and look forward to seeing more from Sarah Ward in the future.

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Filed under book review, crime fiction

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