Bookshelf: Murder, UFOs, sex and death

A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward. Faber & Faber, £12.99. Review by Gill Oliver
A Deadly Thaw by Sarah WardA Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward
A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward

Lena Fisher served a 10-year jail sentence for killing her husband. So, when his newly-dead body is found a year after her release, it becomes apparent nothing is as it seems. As Lena’s sister Kat battles personal demons to unravel a web of love, loss and false memories from two decades past, she reaches a chilling conclusion that is all too believable. Beautifully crafted, this is Sarah Ward’s second crime thriller set in the Peak District. Bitter Chill, published last year, was compared to the best of Scandinavian noir. In Deadly Thaw, she pulls off the near-impossible feat of balancing a credible plot with realistic characters who are broken and beautifully drawn.

Sex and Death: Stories, edited by Sarah Hall and Peter Hobbs. Faber & Faber, £18.99. Review by Natalie Bowen

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It could be argued that all tales are, somehow, about sex or death, but in this collection of 20 short stories written by authors around the world, these tantalising themes are thrust into the spotlight. Some are laugh-out-loud funny, such as Alan Warner’s Porto Baso Scale Modellers, when an attractive woman tries to join a group of elderly model plane enthusiasts. Some are creepy, for example In the Reactor, by Peter Hobbs, about two dummy nuclear plant workers. And some are overtly sexual, but it’s not a collection of soft porn stories. Instead, there’s plenty to provoke longer thought, with a couple of light-hearted one-shots to balance it all out.

Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote. Quercus, £12.99. Review by Anna Hinchcliffe

With a background in writing and editing magazines and newspapers, Elizabeth Heathcote has now turned her hand to novels, in the form of Undertow. This dark thriller follows freelance journalist Carmen as she begins to question whether the death of her husband’s former lover really was a tragic accident. But she is met with a web of lies and unanswered questions at every turn. The book has a somewhat slow and wordy start, but still manages to draw you in. Despite the tension only really building in the final few chapters, Heathcote conjures up clear imagery throughout and executes a clever twist at the end.

The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America’s UFO Highway by Ben Mezrich. William Heinemann, £18.99. Review by Rachel Farrow

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The 37th Parallel tells the real-life story of UFO buff Chuck Zukowski as he tenaciously investigates paranormal happenings along a 3,000-mile highway through the centre of the USA. Chuck wants us to believe, but his sceptical wife, who he drags along for the ride, provides an interesting counterpoint that stops the book becoming too fantastical. The narrative is extremely engaging, but the inclusion of photos and important documents really helps the reader understand the intricacies of the investigation. However, while I’m open to the idea that UFOs exist and loved the conspiratorial theories in the book, I must admit I’ve yet to be 100 per cent convinced.

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