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Thriller set in North Derbyshire, plus we chat to author Sarah Ward.

12th September 2016

A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward, thriller set in North Derbyshire.

Set in North Derbyshire, this fast moving thriller will keep you guessing who and why all the way through.

thriller set in north derbyshire

The book opens with a murder; Lena admits guilt and goes to prison for killing her husband.   Many years later, shortly after Lena is released her husband is found murdered. So who was the first victim, and why did Lena not say anything about the mistaken identity? And that’s only the beginning of the mysteries that keep coming thick and fast.

The chapters are short and fast moving, with lots of cliff hangers. Each chapter deals with what is going on in the investigation from various viewpoints including the police and Lena’s sister. Even with these alternating different perspectives the story flows smoothly, and all the characters are so well drawn that they are easy to remember. Characters that include Connie, one of the police team who has plenty of personal issues she’s ignoring, and Lena’s sister who keeps being given unnerving clues from an unknown boy.

There are flashes back to childhood events and history unknown to even family members.

Set in a small town called Bampton, there are frequent drives down Derbyshire lanes to the beautiful moors plus other trips to less inviting but equally remote places. Whitby is also visited a few times. Whilst some interesting details are given about these places, there is little detail for the tourist – though the moors do sound a lovely place to visit.

This is only Sarah Ward’s second novel, and the first one I have read. Her fast moving style was great, and the way she approaches some hard hitting themes, including some old police practices made interesting reading. The plot goes in many directions, there is a lot happening, all cleverly held together and easy to follow (I was reading the paper version).

As an aside, I see that the book, and its predecessor In Bitter Chill, have added on to the title the sub-title of (Inspector Francis Sadler) – UK editions. For me the main character in the police force was DC Connie Childs, not her boss Sadler. I do hope that she continues to feature in any more books of this series that Sarah Ward may be planning/writing.

Emma for the TripFiction Team

Over to Sarah who has kindly agreed to answer our questions:

TF: There is a lot of detail given about the police investigation. Do you have personal experience of how the police force operates and how have you garnered all the insights?

SW: For A Deadly Thaw, I first spoke to a Scene of Crime Officer because I wanted to understand the procedure around what happens when a dead body is found and how they are identified. This was key to the book as the premise revolves around the misidentification of a body years earlier. It also gave me an insight into how much procedure has changed in a short period of time.

In terms of police procedure in a murder investigation, I used my cousin Peter who was a Chief Inspector with Dyfed Powys police. He’s just retired so is a great resource and if he doesn’t know something, he can find out for me.

TF: The book is set in fictional Bampton, North Derbyshire. Is this based on a real place you know and what is your personal connection with Derbyshire?

SW: Derbyshire is where I live now. I grew up in the neighbouring county of Cheshire and then after university in Liverpool, I lived first in London and then in Athens, Greece. When I returned to the UK I briefly lived in London but decided I preferred to be out of the capital so moved to Derbyshire. The period coincided with changes in my personal life and I decided to go for it. I’m very happy in the Peak District and the landscape is a great source of inspiration.

The towns of Derbyshire have an interesting mix that I wanted reflected in my fictional location. Bampton is partly based on Buxton with it’s Georgian architecture, Bakewell which is a well-heeled market town with a strong tourist industry and Cromford with its canal and fantastic industrial heritage.

TF: The plot goes in lots of directions, all cleverly held together and easy to follow.  How do you keep track of what is happening, to whom and where? And do you plan out the bones of the story before you start or does it develop as you write?

SW: I don’t plan my books, I start with a premise. In the case of A Deadly Thaw, it’s why would a woman go to prison and lie about the identity of the man she killed? I then write out the story not worrying too much about loose threads and continuity. This gives me a very rough first draft. Then for the rewrite, this is where I tighten up the plot and keep track of who is doing what. I use an excel spreadsheet at this point for my timeline and also post-it notes on paper to track the different narrative threads. It can give me quite a headache but I do get there. My third draft is where I tighten up the language.

TF: The husband’s body is found in a disused morgue. According to Google there are quite a few abandoned morgues…. can you share with us how you hit upon this idea? And how did you delve into researching this area?

thriller set in north derbyshire

Sarah Ward

SW: I love those websites that photograph abandoned buildings whether they be former hospitals, schools or pubs. The people who break into them are far more adventurous than me although I am so tempted to find one and have a go. I’m very much an armchair enthusiast though. There are quite a few abandoned mortuaries on these sites with images of old medical equipment. I wanted to use this as a location to find a body (!) but also bring in Derbyshire’s First World War heritage which has been a bit neglected.

TF: We loved DC Connie Childs – is she going to continue to feature in your future books? (we’re hoping there will be more books from you!)?

SW: That’s really kind. Thank you. Yes, Connie will continue to feature in my books and I’m currently writing the third in the series, A Patient Fury. There’s a bit of Connie in all of us, the person who wants to say ‘what???’ when professionalism prevents us from doing so. A lot of my readers have really responded to her and I’m so pleased people like her because she’s a joy to write.

TF:  What are your top tips for visiting Derbyshire?

SW: Come in the winter! It’s incredibly busy in the summer but when the season is quieter, you can enjoy the countryside at your leisure. For someone who lives in the White Peaks I’m actually obsessed with the nearby moorland which also features in A Deadly Thaw. The moors are a special, atmospheric place but be careful not to get lost…
I’m also fascinated by the area’s industrial legacy so I’d recommend looking at the old mills (Litton, Cromford) and going for a bike ride along the Monsall Trail which follows the line of the old railway. It’s a sense of time gone by.

TF:  What is next for you both in terms of travel and writing and research?

SW: I’m going to Iceland Noir in November. It will be my fifth visit to the country and I wrote much of the first draft of A Patient Fury there. It’s one of my favourite places to visit. The next research I need to think about will be for my fourth book. I have an idea which I need to think through first but I’m excited about it!

Thank you to Sarah for answering our questions. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and via her website

Come and connect with the team at TripFiction via Twitter (@tripfiction), Facebook (TripFiction), Instagram (TripFiction) and Pinterest (TripFiction)… and now YouTube

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