In Bitter Chill



Author: Sarah Ward

Finished on: 19 March 2017

Where did I get this book: A book club read

In Bitter Chill is the debut novel from influential crime fiction reviewer Sarah Ward.

Ward lives in Derbyshire not far from me, and has set this book in a fictionalised Peak District town. I was looking forward to reading something set so close to home. Especially something that promised to be deliciously dark and horrible.

The book is set 30 years after a kidnapping where two girls are taken, but only one returned. This event looms large over the whole story, and there is some switching between the two time periods. Rachel Jones, the girl who made it out of the kidnapping alive, is now working as a genealogist, when the case is opened once again following the apparent suicide of the other girl’s mother.

In the atmospheric prologue, we get a sense of the dark and complex web of relationships at the heart of this story. A web that we don’t see in its entirety until the end of the story. But, despite some undeniably horrible discoveries along the way, this  book remains a civilised read; this isn’t one that’s going to have you waking up your husband to come with you if you need a wee in the night (everyone does that, right?)

The genealogy theme is a clever way to introduce and explore several of the issues relating to family tackled in the book, without them seeming shoehorned. And as we twist and turn our way towards a satisfying denouement, and the full pictures emerges, Ward well and truly turns the picture of an idyllic Peak District life on its head. I might start locking my door.

This review is dedicated to the lovely ladies of my book club, with thanks for making me so welcome into your ranks.


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