19 July 2008

REVIEW: A KILLING FROST, R. D. Wingfield

Bantam Press, 2008, 400 pages. ISBN 978-0-593-0647-6

It's late at night in Denton, dark with rain, and a man walking in Denton Woods is horrified when his dog retrieves a chopped-off human foot. As usual D.I. Jack Frost has far too many cases to cover - fifteen year old Sally Marsden attacked and raped near a multi-storey carpark; the reported abduction of a two year old from his cot;two missing teenagers; a blackmailer who has poisoned baby food in a local supermarket and is demanding money; and then on top of it all, the arrival of a new D. C. I. whose sole mission in life is to rid Denton police station of scruffy, irregular, and unconventional Jack Frost.

Published posthumously by the estate of R. D. Wingfield, after a long gap in the six book series, it seemed to me as I said in my progress report earlier this week, that the early incidents in A KILLING FROST owed their existence to some of the episodes in the very popular television series. In all there have been 42 episodes in 13 series, made, "based on the characters created by R. D. Wingfield". A KILLING FROST seemed to me to contain a compilation of some of these episodes.

His very continuance as part of the Denton police force under threat because of scheming by the new D. C. I. and Superintendent Mullett, to get him to volunteer to transfer to another station, overburdened with an enormous workload, continually under-resourced, Frost continues to show as he connects the dots in the puzzles, why he is among the best.
If I had to compare him to another fictional detective then I think it would be Fred Vargas' Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. Like Adamsberg Frost is able to connect the seemingly unconnected. Nor does Frost do things by the book. If he doesn't get a search warrant then he is devious enough to do without. His mind continues to gnaw at problems, trying make sense of what he knows he has seen.

I liked A TOUCH OF FROST more as the central story of missing teenagers surged on. Frost complains at the amount of work piled on his plate, but he never shirks, and he always shoulders the blame when it is his.

As the threat of having to leave Denton looms, Frost is haunted by thoughts of his dead wife. They were not close in the final years of their marriage, constantly driven apart by the demands of his job, and the fact that he really is a workaholic. That strand inserts an element of pathos into the story. But it's easy to see how the job separated them.

So this book is Wingfield's last. It is sad to think there will be no more.
If you haven't read any at all, do start from the beginning.
Here's the list to look for
1. Frost at Christmas (1984)
2. A Touch of Frost (1987)
3. Night Frost (1992)
4. Hard Frost (1995)
5. Winter Frost (1999)
6. A Killing Frost (2008)

My rating: 4.7

1 comment:

maxine said...

Glad you liked this book, Kerrie. Me too!
There is a lovely, and funny, appreciation of R D Wingfield at ShotsMag, by Mike Ripley.

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