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A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward

A Deadly Thaw is the second novel in the DC Connie Childs series by Sarah Ward.  I reviewed the first book, In Bitter Chill, a couple weeks ago.  The third book, A Patient Fury, will be released in September.   Thus far each book revolves around a present day mystery that connects to a previously unsolved crime in the distant (or not too distant) past and Childs and/or DI Sadler twinge on to the sense that they're 'missing something' in the case file, such as some key piece of evidence, that will make all the puzzle pieces fall into place.  Both In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw exposed a dark and depraved secret that essentially broke the case wide open for the detectives.

In 2004 Lena Grey was convicted of and served time for the murder of her husband, Andrew Miller, having suffocated the man in the couple's marital bed.  Now over a decade later the newly dead body of Andrew Miller turns up in Hale's End, a local, long abandoned mortuary, having been shot dead barely a day earlier.  Where was Andrew in the intervening decade?  Who was the man Lena killed so many years ago?  And why did she lie about the man's identity?

Before DC Childs, DS Palmer, and DI Sadler can further question Lena, she disappears without a trace in the middle of the night from the home she shares with her sister Kat, a therapist.  Though the sisters are roommates, they are essentially estranged due to the distance Lena maintains from most people in her life.  However, the distance opened up practically over night when the girls were teenagers and predicated behavioral changes as well as an utter change in course for Lena's life.  Is Lena's disappearance voluntary?  Or was she taken by force?  What precipitated the sisters' estrangement and Lena's behavioral changes?

Soon after Lena's disappearance, another woman named Stephanie Alton turns up drowned in the nearby river.  Though an apparent suicide, the proximity to both Andrew's murder and Lena's subsequent disappearance gives Alton's death the appearance of being more than mere coincidence.  Some digging uncovers that Stephanie was friends with Lena many years ago and that Stephanie is connected to Philip Staley, the probable candidate for the dead man in Lena's marital bed and the man Stephanie maintained ruined her life.  The police then connect the dots between Stephanie's death, the murdered men, and events during Lena's teenage years during which Lena suffered a trauma that altered her life and her relationship with her sister.

Meanwhile, there's some internal investigation shadiness going on with DCI Llewellyn that also connects to this case as well as past cases of grossly mishandled sexual assaults.  However, Llewellyn's prohibition from reading Sadler, Childs, and Palmer in on the internal investigation hinders the timely connections between the current murders and how they connect to the epidemic of sexual assaults.

A thought I had:

Palmer and his marital woes (following on the heels of his pre-wedding jitters/cold feet in the previous novel) get old, sketchy, and irritating real quick.  Palmer is "traditional" and "will never leave his wife."  Fine.  Leave aside the fact that he had red flags from this broad before the wedding that should have precluded him from going through with the marriage, one can clearly see that this situation is on a slow burn that will eventually blow up (probably in everyone's faces).  If it takes Palmer's career down with it and that means we never see Palmer again, fine, and good riddance.  The man made his bed, now he needs to lay in it and deal with it.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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