A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward

A Deadly Thaw“Every secret has consequences.

Autumn 2004
In Bampton, Derbyshire, Lena Fisher is arrested for suffocating her husband, Andrew.

Spring 2016
A year after Lena’s release from prison, Andrew is found dead in a disused mortuary.

Who was the man Lena killed twelve years ago, and who committed the second murder? When Lena disappears, her sister, Kat, sets out to follow a trail of clues delivered by a mysterious teenage boy. Kat must uncover the truth – before there’s another death . . .”

There’s a first time for everything – I’ve actually used the blurb for the book to introduce this review. And why? Because, for once, it’s a damn fine blurb.

Because there’s a lot here that could easily be spoiled by a careless blurb (or review) and there’s really no need. The simple but intriguing set-up – why did Lena confess to murdering her husband when he was apparently alive, and why was he killed soon after she was released from prison – is a cracking hook, which already raised questions for the reader – where was he and why is he found in the mortuary? And that’s just the beginning. There’s a very important central theme to this tale, but knowing what it is would definitely be a spoiler. So good job to the blurb writer.

What’s not clear from the blurb is that this is the second outing for DI Francis Sadler, who first appeared in In Bitter Chill, fellow blogger Sarah Ward’s stunning debut which easily took the Puzzly for June 2015. This is the follow-up with a similar structure, with the plot balanced between the police team of Sadler, DS Damian Palmer and DC Connie Childs and a protagonist linked to the plot, namely the aforementioned Kat, and while it deals with the personal lives of those leads, these never get in the way of the plot. I do wonder though – it’s billed as a Sadler book, on Amazon at least, but it’s DC Childs who seems to me to be the most important (and interesting) of the police characters. I’m guessing her role is going to grow in, hopefully, the many books to come.

And the plot is a gripping one, twisting this way and that and going into some very dark places with an intelligent touch. I was particularly impressed with the plotline of Sadler’s boss, which could have easily drifted into stereotype but I thought was handled extremely well.

As with the last book, this is compared with the best Scandi-noir fiction. Now I can’t comment on that, having read a grand total of two of those books, but there are authors closer to home that I think are excellent comparisons. The combination of a clever plot with the general feeling of reality reminds me of Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards or Kate Ellis, all top-notch crime writers and with this book, Sarah has shown that she has the potential to be one of the greats of UK crime writing.

Needless to say, this is Highly Recommended, as was In Bitter Chill. An absolute must-read novel.*

*Note that this glowing review has nothing to do with being provided with a couple of glasses of free wine at the book launch in London on Wednesday. Hic!


  1. […] Here’s Kate from Cross Examing Crime on the conference – she made better notes than me – and here’s Sarah Ward’s write-up of her talk. If you like Golden Age crime fiction, I highly recommend Kate’s blog, by the way, and if you like outstanding crime fiction from any era (with a clever mystery running through it) then read Sarah Ward’s books, In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw. […]


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