A DEADLY THAW by Sarah Ward
CBTB Rating: 4/5
The Verdict: an engrossing, slow-burning mystery
A DEADLY THAW was my first book by Sarah Ward, and it certainly won’t be my last. Reading A DEADLY THAW felt a lot like coming home—Sarah’s writing falls squarely within my comfort zone, with strong influences of Scandinavian crime fiction and classic detective novels felt throughout. On top of being wholly impressed with Sarah as a person (to find out why, check out our Q&A here), I’m thoroughly impressed with her abilities as an author as well. A DEADLY THAW is an atmospheric, slow-burning crime book that wraps readers up in a shroud of deception and mystery.
Nearly two decades ago, Lena Grey was convicted of murdering her husband. She offered no defense, and served her fourteen years in prison for her crime. But now, mere months after her release from prison, her husband’s body is found again—this time, recently killed in a disused morgue. How is this possible? If this man is really Lena Grey’s husband, whom did she kill before, and why did she lie about her victim’s identity? Detective Inspector Francis Sadler and his team try to unravel this mystery, while Lena’s sister, Kat, simultaneously conducts her own investigation into her sister’s hidden secrets.
A DEADLY THAW has an undeniably compelling plot, and I was immediately intrigued by its story of identity mix-ups and family secrets. Where this book really shines, however, is in its fascinating blend of the best of many popular crime fiction subgenres. Sarah has masterfully woven together the influence of Nordic Noir and classic detective fiction to great effect. Sarah’s personal background with Scandinavian crime fiction, and her longstanding love of crime fiction classics are largely evident throughout this story—and Sarah explains exactly why these influences exist in her work in our Q&A. But suffice it to say, I picked up on them immediately upon diving into A DEADLY THAW. The dark atmosphere of this story seems straight from a piece of Scandinavian crime fiction, and the tightly-knit central mystery is an ode to classic detective fiction. If you love either of these subgenres, you will feel right at home in Sarah Ward’s world.
One point that needs to be made: if you’re looking for a really fast-paced mystery, this book might not be the one for you. I was wholly absorbed for the duration of A DEADLY THAW, but it definitely falls into the category of a slow-burning mystery. That’s not a bad thing in the least, but as always, I want to make sure this book connects with the right readers.
A DEADLY THAW is technically book 2 in Sarah’s Inspector Francis Sadler series, but it can absolutely be read by newcomers to Ward’s books. (I’m living proof of that!) Ward has crafted a truly compelling mystery, and fans of Ruth Rendell, Agatha Christie, and Ragnar Jonasson will love Sarah’s work.