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Monday, 6 June 2011

Frozen Charlotte by Priscilla Masters

Published by Severn House, January 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8006-2

‘There was nothing to mark her out. She sat quietly in the corner of the Accident and Emergency department, in the seat farthest away from the registration hatch.’ The opening two lines of Frozen Charlotte have the reader griped from that moment.  For the woman is clutching a bundle in a pink blanket that contains a new born that has been dead for several years.

Initial questioning of this quiet well-dressed woman brings forth no answers – only questions. PC Constable Gethin Roberts is relieved to hand over to Sergeant Paul Talith but he doesn’t get much further.  Eventually Detective Inspector Alex Randall takes over but even the basic question of ‘why did you bring a dead baby to the hospital, why not call the police?’ produces no explanation.

Coroner Martha Gunn also has questions, and together with Alex Randall they attempt to uncover the mystery behind the death of this child.

I have mentioned PC Gethin Roberts, Sergeant Paul Talith and Alex Randall, and there are many other characters in this mystery that will remained unmentioned in this review, but this story is rich in characterisation. All of their lives and many more are touched-on, and all of their lives equally fascinating. In Martha’s life are her twins now fifteen - Sam is pursing a career in football, while Sukey has different ideas and nothing that Martha could have even envisaged.

In book discussions the question is often asked of the readers what is the most powerful element in this book, plot, writing, or character?  I love an easy question, in this book equally all three.  If I should be asked what is your favourite type of mystery? I can say it is Frozen Charlotte.  A ‘mystery’ that grips the reader from the first to the last page. In short one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is compelling, fascinating, intriguing - a real mystery.  It moves at an incredible pace, every chapter taking the reader to a new place, more questions, and more interesting characters. I wanted to follow all their lives, so intriguing were they masterly proffered.

Although, the conclusion was eminently satisfying, there are a couple of tantalising personal situations left open, making me hot to read the next book.

To say ‘highly recommended’ sounds in adequate I think ‘must read’ is nearer the mark.
Lizzie Hayes

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