Review: In Bitter Chill – Sarah Ward – Blog Tour

Published 2nd July 2015 by Faber and Faber

sarah ward


Bampton, Derbyshire, January 1978. Two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later: Sophie Jenkins’s mother commits suicide. Rachel Jones has tried to put the past behind her and move on with her life. But news of the suicide re-opens old wounds and Rachel realises that the only way she can have a future is to finally discover what really happened all those years ago. This is a story about loss and family secrets, and how often the very darkest secrets are those that are closest to you.


Sarah Ward is an online book reviewer whose blog, Crimepieces (, reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She has also reviewed for Eurocrime and Crimesquad and is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. She lives in Derbyshire where her debut novel, In Bitter Chill, is set.

Follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahrward1

Amazon link:

Today it is my turn on the blog tour to celebrate the publication of Sarah Ward’s debut novel. I am really happy to be involved with this. Sarah Ward is well respected in the blogging community and it is lovely to see her book in print. 

My thoughts

This is an impressive debut novel by Sarah Ward, who puts a new delicious spin on a missing child case.

The story takes us to 1978, where two eight year old girls are kidnapped in broad daylight. Only one child manages to escape, with Sophie remaining missing presumed dead. Rachel, now in her forties, has managed to move on from the past and is a genealogist. She has fragmented memories about the kidnapping. Sophie’s mother commits suicide, which triggers Rachel’s search for answers. DI Sadler and DC Connie Childs are brought in to investigate, both the disappearance of Sophie and the suicide. Why were the girls taken? And who would not want the truth to come out today?

This is a sophisticated and unsettling read, with uncanny observations about the past. There was plenty to recognise and smile about, for anyone who grew up in the late 1970s/1980s. This is a missing child story, that is a little bit different. A small community has hidden secrets, that will not stay hidden.

I was fascinated by Rachel and her love of genealogy. This surprised me because I’ve not ever been interested in discovering my own personal family history. Genealogy is very much the in-thing these days. Everyone can easily access birth certificates and death certificates online and uncover their family tree. It was very clever how this was interwoven into the story.

There is much to love in this book. Its highlight for me was the focus on genealogy. Family secrets, missing children, a killer and insight into our recent past; a perfect combination!



Join the rest of the Blog Tour and say hello to Sarah Ward on twitter.

In Bitter Chill blog tour

About Northern Crime

Reviewer with a mind of her own. This is a collection of book reviews, which started in 2014. Mostly crime and odd other genres thrown in. Some I loved. Some I loathed. You get the picture.
This entry was posted in mystery, police, psychological and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Review: In Bitter Chill – Sarah Ward – Blog Tour

  1. Kay says:

    My copy is right at this moment winging its way to me. Looking forward to reading it soon!

  2. crimeworm says:

    I’m waiting on Sarah’s publicist who’s just back from holiday sending me a copy (prob post Harrogate though!) That be cool, set in those times, we grew up then – you’re a year younger than me, so we could both relate. Laura Wilson reviewed it in the Guardian last weekend, which was good news for Sarah. I love secrets from the past.

    Members of my family on both sides have done my family tree – my name came over from Spain in 1551, as paid mercenaries to fight with the English(!) against the Scots(!) in cross border fighting. We’re hardcore lol! My uncle Ian couldn’t get past 1551; he doesn’t speak Spanish, he’d need a Spanish genealogist – which he could afford, he’s a bachelor who had some very good government jobs in his time, and he’s an entrepreneur (he’s like my Dad – always got his eye on the main chance. Not dodgy though! Just sees opportunities!), but tons of old Spanish records were destroyed in the war with Franco in the 1930s. So my point is, it’s been done, for my lot. Sorry to rattle on.

    I’m dying to read this book and see what I think of it. Sarah was – I think – the first blogger who liked a post or commented on my blog – she’s been SO welcoming and kind. I hope she goes on to massive success.

    • Christine says:

      Hopefully your copy will be with you soon. I’m sure Sarah will be a massive success. She deserves it. You’ll have to start your book, so we can all cheer you on.

      Yes we’re about the same age (although I’m pretending to be 30). I love it when an author reminds me of things I’ve forgotten about the past. Sarah Ward does this wonderfully!

      Cool! Spanish ancestry. That’s fascinating. 1551 is a long way back to research. I don’t think my Mum got anywhere near that.

      • crimeworm says:

        I had a great idea for a book yesterday – I’ll PM you about it (top secret lol!) It’s partly based on a true incident up here, but I’ve not got hugely far in the plotting stage. It’ll be a police procedural, assuming it ever comes to fruition. I need a mentor for all my work! Also came up with a short story yesterday too.

        It’s a dead giveaway using your birth year in an e-mail or Twitter account! Fine when you’re 35; now I’m wishing I hadn’t done it! I love it when people mention sweets and TV shows from your youth! (I wish they’d bring back Splicers!)

        I basically think my uncle was quite fortunate – he’d just retired from his job as Chairman of the Red Deer Commission, knew everyone elderly in the area who could help, he’s a smart guy, he’s got money, as he’s always had good jobs and never married, and – the most important factor – our family had only really moved once since arriving in the UK, from the Borders to Glen Affric. So it wasn’t as difficult as it could be for some families, who move around a lot, perhaps, or don’t have anyone elderly left to start you off. I really should get a copy from him – and one from my mum’s side too!

        Don’t you wish we were in Harrogate with press passes to everything?! I so do!

      • Christine says:

        Yes I feel so stupid for not even booking for one event in Harrogate. It is so close to me. I love seeing the photos everyone is posting on Twitter and Facebook. We so should be there!!!

        Yes!!! You see. PM me.

        My email address with my birth year was set up in my 20s. Never thought I’d still be using it now and people would be sussing out my age. I thought I was being mysterious haha!

      • crimeworm says:

        I can’t believe Harrogate is so close to you – I thought you were maybe in Lancashire, so it’d still be a trek. Do you drive? I think you can only go to Harrogate if you’ve plenty of money. It would be a bit rubbish not being able to buy lots of books…!

      • Christine says:

        It is SO close! I could be there in half an hour *cries*

        Next year!!!! And no I don’t drive. I will ensure it happens and I get there. I will practise my ‘I read your book and I love you’ speech for then.

Comments are closed.