A Deadly Thaw

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By Sarah Ward
The impossible murder – the kind that can’t physically happen — is as much of a challenge to mystery writers as the perfect crime – the kind where the murderer can never be convicted. Successfully doing either is the pinnacle of mystery writing.
A DEADLY THAW is an impossible murder.  It’s not the dead-body-inside-a-room-locked-from-the-inside kind made famous by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Wilkie Collins or Edgar Allan Poe.  But it is a murder – actually two – that appear impossible.

More than 10 years before the story opens, Lena Gray is tried and convicted of murdering her husband, Andrew Fisher. She served her sentence, changed back to her maiden name and moved into the family home where she and her sister Kat grew up.

Now, just months after her release, the body of a murdered man is found in the abandoned Hale’s End Mortuary, built to process casualties brought home from World War I France.  The murdered man is without a doubt Fisher.  The identification is made by none other than Detective Inspector Francis Sadler, who knew Fisher from high school.
When the police arrive to question Lena, she seems startled at the news of the murder, but doesn’t deny or comment on the fact that the man she murdered and served time for was not her husband. Hours later, Lena disappears.
Her sister, Kat, begins receiving odd packages from a boy in a hoodie who refuses to tell her more than that Lena wanted her to have the items.
As Sadler’s team digs, the more they realize that failing to properly identify the body was just one of many mistakes made in 2004 — and decades before that. Many of the higher level police officers, including Sandler; his boss, Superintendent Dai Llewellyn; and the pathologist, Bill Shields, were on the force at the time of the original murder. The possibility of police involvement in the crimes adds tension to the story.
This is a hard book to put down. Ultimately, it’s not as good as Ward’s first book, IN BITTER CHILL. Lena Gray is an aloof character, secretive and hard to like. Her sister Kat and Kat’s budding relationship with a veteran of the Afghanistan war, help balance Lena’s coldness.
This is the second in a series featuring the Bampton police department. The feisty Detective Constable Connie Childs is the most dynamic member of the team that is led by Detective Inspector Francis Sadler. Connie’s rival, Detective Sergeant Damian Palmer, is distracted in this book by his wife and her announcement that she’s pregnant.


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