Testament to the gripping nature of In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward is that on the morning of my big sister’s wedding on Saturday, tucked away in a beautiful B&B in Coombe Bisset, I awoke with the birds at 6am in order to read the final 50 pages before the festivities began.
A crime fiction reviewer, reader and blogger, it’s little surprise that her debut novel is of a genre that she knows so well. In Bitter Chill, to be published by Faber in July, tells the story of Rachel Jones and Sophie Jenkins; both of whom are kidnapped on their way to school in 1978. But while Rachel returns, Sophie is never found and 30 years later her mother commits suicide, sparking a series events that resurface old wounds and unanswered questions for Rachel.
Now a historian, as Rachel delves into the past to try and make sense of what happened all those years ago, family secrets long buried begin to emerge and Rachel soon discovers that all is not as it first seemed.
An intelligent and fast-paced debut that is both chilling and compelling in equal measure, In Bitter Chill is a tale of loss and of long-hidden secrets that will enthral its reader until the final page.