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Blog Tour- Sarah Ward- A Patient Fury

When Detective Constable Connie Childs is dragged from her bed to the fire-wrecked property on Cross Farm Lane she knows as she steps from the car that this house contains death.
Three bodies discovered – a family obliterated – their deaths all seem to point to one conclusion: One mother, one murderer.

But D.C. Childs, determined as ever to discover the truth behind the tragedy, realises it is the fourth body – the one they cannot find – that holds the key to the mystery. What Connie Childs fails to spot is that her determination to unmask the real murderer might cost her more than her health – this time she could lose the thing she cares about most: her career.

I must confess that I have experienced a slight sense of disenchantment with some writers of Derbyshire set crime of late, but Sarah Ward has proved to be as refreshing as a window suddenly opening in an airless room. Having previously reviewed, and enjoyed, In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw it is no exaggeration to say that Ward is honing her writing more and more with each book, and has just produced, in my opinion, the best of the series to date in A Patient Fury

The first aspect of this book that I really enjoyed was the undercurrent of darkness that undercuts the whole book. The central plot is exceedingly grim, with the crime of murder/suicide of a family laying at the heart of this twisted morality tale. The unconscionable act of a child’s murder strikes the investigation team particularly hard, and the initial suspicion of the mother being guilty of this crime sits uneasily with the fictional protagonists, and us as readers too. I thought the plotting was superb as the book is permeated by small twists, and teasing reveals, the instances of which are perfectly placed in terms of narrative pace, and to increase the suspense. As the net is cast wider to include other relations of this family, Ward plays with our perceptions of each protagonist, and invites us to engage in our own crime solving, as the police team grapple with this particularly tricky investigation. I thought the whole premise of the crime, and the conclusion to it, was entirely realistic, and I enjoyed the way that it unashamedly approached the very real issues of child abandonment, familial abuse, and brought to the fore the varying degrees of emotional intelligence that the members of this family exhibited. With all the elements of a soap opera, but infinitely better written, it certainly kept this reader fully engaged.

Obviously being three books into a series, there is an added enjoyment at my now familiarity with the two main police protagonists of D.I. Francis Sadler, and D.C. Connie Childs, and the way that Ward pushes their personal stories and tribulations onwards. In particular, Connie, still recovering from events in the previous books, is put through the wringer further in terms of her professional behaviour in relation to this case, and her own insecurities as a single woman. I like her character very much, admiring both her tenacity, impetuousness and those small moments of fragility that suddenly appear. Likewise, Sadler is not immune to moments of self doubt and sometimes blindness, both in his treatment of Connie, and his involvement with a face from the past. Ward balances this growth in their characters in parallel to the main plot with an assured touch, leading the story off in different directions, but never to the detriment of the reader’s involvement in the central investigation.

Ward draws heavily on the atmosphere and surrounds of her Derbyshire setting, bringing the area alive to the reader’s imagination, and using the unique landscape of the area as a rich texture to the human drama that plays out. Coupled with the strong, perfectly placed plotting, the examination of human frailty, and her innate talent for realistic characterisation, I found A Patient Fury a hugely satisfying read, and would urge you to discover this series for yourselves. Highly recommended.

(With thanks to Faber for the ARC)

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Blog Tour- Sarah Ward- A Deadly Thaw

deadly

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 . . .

You know that old adage about the difficult second book? Well, come closer and I’ll let you into a secret. Following Sarah Ward’s compelling debut  In Bitter Chill I’m going to boldly state that this one is even better. There, I’ve said it. Gauntlet thrown down for those foolish enough to challenge me. From the very outset I was completely hooked by this dark, suspenseful tale of Derbyshire folk, so read on and find out why…

What Ward achieves so well in this book is a perfect symmetry between the strength of her plotting and her razor sharp characterisation. The basic twist in the story upon which the whole book is played out is devilishly good, and as a long time crime reader provided a very unique and intriguing premise for a story. Woman reports husband dead. Woman convicted of his murder. Fourteen years later husband turns up dead. Again. Who was the original dead man? Brilliant. As Ward takes us on a darkly disturbing journey between the two timelines of the story, some nasty secrets centring on a string of local sex attacks come to light, flicking on the reader’s empathy switch, and completely immersing us on the dark history that comes to be revealed. Ward’s control of pace and reveal is perfectly realised throughout. With the branching out of other stories focussing on the particular personal relationships of her cast of protagonists, and a frighteningly familiar tale of police incompetence and the lack of sympathy to female victims of crime,  this book adroitly raises these serious issues throughout, but never to the detriment of this being a tautly played out thriller.

Once again, this is an extremely character driven book, and I liked the reprise of the police characters from the first book- DCI Francis Sadler, DS Damien Palmer and the wonderfully feisty DC Connie Childs- and the professional and personal interactions between them. Sadler is still firmly and solidly at the helm, and I liked the way that both Palmer and Childs sometimes resemble recalcitrant teenagers as their personal relationship takes a different turn in this book, and they continue to vie for the professional affection of their boss. There is also a strong cast around them from their under pressure senior commanding officer, Superintendent Dai Llewellyn, gruff pathologist Bill Shields and his assistant Scott, which really shores up the forensic and procedural accuracy of the book as past mistakes rear their ugly head. Equally, Ward carefully explores the sibling relationship between Lena and Kat Gray, and the tensions that arise from the aura of suspected guilt within their family dynamic, and the dangerous ramifications this holds for them both.  Ward again sensitively depicts the fear and emotional vulnerability of Lena as a person in the light of her traumatic experience, balancing this with the turbulent effect that her actions have caused in her sister’s life too, which is a real lynchpin in our engagement as a reader with them.

Great plotting, superb characterisation, the exploration of important issues, and perfectly placed moments of snappy humour make this book a perfect pick up and read. Highly recommended.

Sarah Ward is an online book reviewer whose blog, Crimepieces reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She has also reviewed for Eurocrime and Crimesquad and is a judge for the  Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. Follow her on Twitter @sarahrward1

(With thanks to Faber for the ARC)

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Blog Tour- Sarah Ward- In Bitter Chill- Review

IBChill

Bampton, Derbyshire, January 1978. Two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later: Sophie Jenkins’s mother commits suicide.

Rachel Jones has tried to put the past behind her and move on with her life. But news of the suicide re-opens old wounds and Rachel realises that the only way she can have a future is to finally discover what really happened all those years ago…

With a thought-provoking and atmospheric blend of police procedural and psychological thriller, Sarah Ward will quickly establish herself as a name to watch in the crime fiction genre. Drawing on  her experience as a seasoned crime reviewer, Ward has carefully crafted a thriller that will appeal to fans of the British and Scandinavian crime genre, with an extremely character driven novel, that pivots between an historic child abduction case in the 70’s, and the ramifications of this thirty years on…

In terms of the police procedural, Ward has created a trio of extremely strong police protagonists, and the underlying tensions that lay between them. DCI Francis Sadler is a seasoned police officer tasked with the case, but the book focuses as strongly on his two young police cohorts DS Damien Palmer, and DC Connie Childs and the petty rivalry and professional jealousies that lay between them in their attempts to court the affections of their much respected boss. In truth, it was this aspect of the book that engaged me the most throughout, and I was particularly taken with Connie who was a well-crafted and utterly believable character. It was great when she went slightly off-piste, so to speak, in her attempts to impress the boss, and gain ground on the floundering Palmer, whose private life and tribulations seemed to impact greatly on his professional performance. Tempered by the natural stoicism of Sadler, and the domestic trials of Palmer, Connie consistently shone through the book. The whiff of sexual tension between Connie and her boss was also beautifully played, but by the same token did not feel ham-fisted or out of kilter with the way that we saw their  relationship as readers, and will stoke the fire in future books I’m sure.

In Bitter Chill blog tourWith the emotive subject of child abduction, and the subsequent suspicious deaths as a result of the initial case, Ward carefully manipulates the reader as to how the past cannot help but impact on the present. As much as the book works as a police procedural, it is in her rendering of Rachel’s character, that we fully appreciate the balance Ward achieves in the book between police and victim, with Rachel’s fears and development as a person in the light of her traumatic childhood experience beautifully and sensitively depicted. There is no question that is a strong feel of underlying emotional damage to Rachel, but when deaths occur linked to her own experience, she steels herself to confront the past, and revisit those dark areas that are impacting on those around her. With her chosen career as a genealogist, she is more than used to filling in other people’s histories, but investigating her own is a far darker proposition. To be truthful, I did get a little bogged down in the more factual emphasis on the genealogy, as it is not a subject that I am overly interested in, but Ward does reign it in as the book progresses to get us back on track with the central plot.

Set in Derbyshire, the book is underscored by a strong depiction of the surrounding locale and mercurial weather conditions of this most picturesque area of Britain. Equally, and with a nod to the Scandinavian genre, Ward builds up a strong sense of the claustrophobic and suspicious nature of a small community rooted in a totally rural setting, and the close connections and inter-relations between its inhabitants. This helps to grow the tension of the plot, and equally allows us to identify the possible links between Rachel and others in the hunt for a killer, and the cause of her childhood friend’s unresolved disappearance. Enhanced by the strong characterisation throughout, and an intriguing plot with its shifting time-line, In Bitter Chill, proves itself a solid and intriguing debut, and a good addition to the British crime fiction genre. Well worth a read.

Sarah Ward is an online book reviewer whose blog, Crimepieces reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She has also reviewed for Eurocrime and Crimesquad and is a judge for the  Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. Follow her on Twitter @sarahrward1

(With thanks to Faber for the ARC)

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