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In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward - Review

Thursday, October 24, 2019

As you know, I've been reading quite a lot of crime fiction this year. It used to be all I read, about ten years ago, but then I went off it a bit. But in those ten years the genre has come on hugely and I've been enjoying finding new-to-me authors.

I was at Hathersage lido last month and on the drive there I thought, "I wonder if there's any crime fiction set in Derbyshire?" The Peak District is such a beautiful and picturesque place, exactly ripe for an undercurrent of threat and some murders to happen. I asked on Twitter, and my friend Janet told me that the DC Childs books are set in the Peaks. I bought this for a few quid on eBay and then picked it up just after it had arrived.

So, in 1978, two girls were abducted on the way to school. Rachel and Sophie were taken by a woman in a car, and Rachel later escaped from the car and was found wandering by a main road. She had come from the woods, but despite police searches, Sophie was never found. Rachel has managed to go on with her life and is now in her early forties and is a genealogist.

In 2015, Sophie's mum Yvonne is found dead in a hotel, an apparent suicide, on the anniversary of the girls' abduction. Thep olice treat is as suicide - but why now? Why did this year trip her up particularly? Why has she chosen now to die?

The detective in charge of the case is Francis Sadler, who's a pretty typical detective as they go in books. He gets his underlings, Palmer, who is about to get married, and Connie Childs, to look into the 1978 case to see if there's anything the police missed. However, before they can get stuck too much in, a woman is found murdered. She worked at the school Rachel and Sophie attended, and police treat the two cases as linked. Connie has to go over the whole past of the two girls to find out what happened.

I liked Sadler as a cop, and I liked Connie too - she's the main focus really. I liked Rachel's point of view too, although she's less easy to like as a character. I liked the mystery too, I didn't guess what had happened and liked the red herrings presents. I have bought the next two books in the series to read while I wait for a new Cara Hunter book to appear.

However. What stopped this from being a top rated read for me was the amount of fat hate I found on the pages. There's a constant chatter about Rachel's weight although she's all of a size fourteen, and Sadler at one point interviews a man who is extremely fat, poor, and "probably disabled". The way his body is talked about is extremely rude, and I think there are better ways of saying that someone is a terrible person than making them fat and poor. I felt like there was a lot of this throughout the book and it really bothered me.

I will read the next books, and I hope they're better in this respect than this one.

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