BLURB: When Detective Constable Connie Childs is dragged from her bed to the fire-wrecked property on Cross Farm Lane she knows as she steps from the car that this house contains death.
Three bodies discovered – a family obliterated – their deaths all seem to point to one conclusion: One mother, one murderer.
But D.C. Childs, determined as ever to discover the truth behind the tragedy, realises it is the fourth body – the one they cannot find – that holds the key to the mystery at Cross Farm Lane.
What Connie Childs fails to spot is that her determination to unmask the real murderer might cost her more than her health – this time she could lose the thing she cares about most: her career.
Welcome back, fellow bloggers and blog readers. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted my posts have been somewhat thin on the ground recently, due to a nasty virus I couldn’t shake and which made me feel utterly listless. And even when that had finished doing it’s worst, I couldn’t seem to summon back my reading mojo! I tried everything, from crime to non-fic to autobiographies to spy novels to thrillers, and, eventually, luckily, some did it for me – reviews to come! So hopefully I’m now back on an even reading keel, and have the prospect of a long winter snuggled up catching up with the year’s books I’ve missed to look forward to…
One book which completely reassured me I hadn’t lost my love of reading forever was the hugely talented Sarah Ward’s A Patient Fury, the third in her series featuring DC Connie Childs and DI Francis Sadler (DS Damian Palmer, with whom Connie had a brief “thing”, very much takes a back seat in this book, and has put in for a transfer. In his place we have DS Carole Matthews.)
Without question I’m declaring this the best of Sarah’s books yet – it has a deliciously complex storyline to keep you guessing until the end. I utterly, totally adored it.
At the beginning, DC Childs and DI Sadler are called out to a devastating house fire, which looks very much like arson, in a house containing Peter Winson, his much younger wife Francesca, and their son, Charlie, 5, who all look to have perished in the ferocious blaze. This is Peter Winson’s second marriage, and he’s just sold his adult son from the first marriage his half-share of their joint antiques business, so he can enjoy his retirement. He also has a daughter, Julia.
However, the circumstances of the fire puzzle Connie. “Family Annihilation” is almost predominantly a male crime, yet forensics demonstrate Francesca was last to die and must have set the fire. There’s also the unsolved disappearance 30 years ago of Winson’s first wife, Elizabeth, who left a note on her wool & craft shop saying , “Back in two minutes”, never to be seen of again. At that time her children were 12 and 10, and she was very much the traditional 70s stay-at-home mum – perhaps a role a creative soul found stifling? Connie is determined the answer lies in Elizabeth’s all these years ago, but Sadler isn’t impressed and tells her to concentrate their resources on the current crime – assuming there is one, which Connie’s positive there is.
I’m loving the hard-headed, stubborn DC Connie Childs more and more with each novel. This book is considerably more confident than her previous two, In Bitter Chill, and A Fatal Thaw – the plotting is a lot more complex and, as a result, really satisfying, and as a reader, you can feel this is a writer definitely going places, and I, without a doubt, intend, to tag along for the ride. It’s certainly one of the books I’ve read thus far this year, and it will take a number of very, very special books indeed to knock it out of my Books Of The Year. Part of the reason it may resonate so much with me is that Sarah and I are approximately the same age (although I’m convinced I’m slightly younger…😁), so the cultural touchstones we all have from growing up are in our case fairly similar, as is our experience of growing up in the a rural area. Nonetheless, I don’t think this makes me biased in any way – it just makes the book slightly more enjoyable for me, but I defy anyone not to love it. It’s the same way I can enjoy a book set in post-WWI India – one doesn’t have to have experience of something to enjoy reading about it, although it may of course add to the enjoyment.
The one writer whose work Sarah’s reminded me of most was probably (and this is a big name to drop, but I found her work constantly popping into my mind whilst reading this novel) P.D. James – a fantastic mystery which defies solving by all but the most ardent puzzle solvers. I only hope we can enjoy Sarah’s novels for as long as we did the late lamented Baroness’s. Read A Patient Fury and you’ll see how much Sarah has matured as a writer, and how much her confidence has grown, and in such a short time.
I very much hope this novel does every bit as well as it deserves to – and I absolutely can’t wait until the next one. An utter triumph.
Don’t miss it!
Many thanks to Sarah and all at Faber books for the advance reading copy, of which this is my impartial review.
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