The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward

Derbyshire, a grim November afternoon in 1957 and a young girl watches six teenage girls walking along the old train tracks towards an old tunnel, the Cutting. She also sees the girls emerge from the other side – well, five of them anyway. The sixth girl never comes out…

Fifty-seven years later, and Mina Kemp in trying to follow her ailing mother’s instruction – “Find Valerie”. But who was Valerie? And why has her mother suddenly mentioned her for the first time?

Meanwhile DC Childs has a simple case to deal with – a natural death. But something about it doesn’t quite feel right and soon her suspicions seem to be justified. It seems that her case and Mina’s investigation both have the same end point – the Cutting and the dreadful secret of what happened in 1957…

I use the phrase “friend of the blog” on occasion, and that certainly applies to Sarah Ward. I first met Sarah at the first Bodies From The Library conference and have had the privilege of reviewing her excellent series of crime novels focussing on DC Childs. The series to date consists of:

Now we’re on to book four, and it follows the same basic structure. The narrative is split into two halves, one focussing on the police investigation, predominantly Connie and her new partner, but also her boss, DI Sadler. The second half follows the fate of a character tied up personally in the investigation, in this case Mina. This generates an impressive effect of giving us the same story but from the point of view of different characters with different motivations – it’s not a structure that I recall seeing before, but it rather cleverly enables a series of books to still contain personal stories.

I think this might be the most impressive of the books to date. The initial set-up is chillingly presented, and the questions spread throughout the narrative kept this reader guessing. There’s even a puzzle-type clue that the seasoned armchair sleuth might well deduce quickly. If you do… just don’t be too cocky about the solution to it and what exactly it means. Especially don’t DM the author to say it was a bit obvious. Only a real arse would do that…

It nice to see that there’s not too much trauma directed at Connie in this book – oddly the blurb describes her as “off balance after her last big case” but she’s pleasingly rather sorted in this one (which is actually a bit odd considering the end of the previous book) but that’s nice to see, as is the much more positive pairing with her new partner.

Overall, the less spoiled about the plot, the better, but I’d strongly recommend that fans of crime fiction, whether it be police procedural or psychological crime should take a look at this series, and this book in particular. Each book from Sarah is something that I always look forward to, and I’ve yet to be disappointed. This is an outstanding read and obviously, it is Highly Recommended.

Many thanks to Sarah for the review copy.

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