Minotaur Books, September 2015
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.
There is so much I liked about Sarah Ward’s debut novel In Bitter Chill. I’m fond of police procedurals, which this is in part. I liked following the team of police investigators (solo detective stories are not my favorite right now). I’m also a fan of the central character of Ruth Jones, a professional genealogist. She’s curious but not a careless investigator. Her life has problems, but it isn’t overly messy. But overall, what I liked was the tone: it could have easily become a melodramatic or sensationalistic story about child abduction, and instead the story is very matter-of-fact about a series of strange events.
The book opens with the suicide of the mother of a young girl who disappeared nearly thirty years before. Ruth Jones enters the story because she disappeared at the same time but returned. She remembers very little about her disappearance, and I’m thankful that the book doesn’t rely on too many flashbacks to the abduction. It’s much more unsettling to have gaps in the story, I think. This is a story full of gaps and strangeness because of the length of time between the abduction and the suicide and because of the secrets the police and Rachel uncover during the story.
In Bitter Chill is one of my favorite reads of the year: it’s suspenseful, I like the array of characters, and I am very much looking forward to book 2.