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Thursday 25 April 2024

‘The Frost Killer’ by L.T. Ryan and Biba Pearce.

Published by Liquid Mind Publishing,
8 January 2024.
ISBN: 978-1-68533289-1 (PB)

“Savage looked toward the mountains, but it was impossible to see where the ranch land ended, and the hills began…”

For the last three days there has been heavy snowfall in Hawk’s Landing, South Colorado.  It’s created a picture postcard landscape but is the last thing the town’s struggling farmers and businesses need and it’s causing all manner of trouble for Sheriff Dalton Savage. The officer, his wife Becca and baby Conor are still settling into their new property, Apple Tree Farm, and after a long shift, Dalton is glad to be on his way home to spend the evening with his family. Then a call comes through on his radio, suspicious noises have been heard coming from a barn on Lone Mountain Ranch. Savage grudgingly changes direction and makes his way through the relentless blizzard to investigate. 

Inside the barn lies the mauled corpse of a young woman, it seems likely that an animal attack caused her death. Savage isn’t convinced though; something doesn’t seem quite right. He declares the area a crime scene and stays with the frozen body until a medical unit arrives to retrieve it. An autopsy reveals that hypothermia caused the victim’s death and that her injuries were inflicted post-mortem.  After all, it looks like the woman’s demise was a tragic accident, the case is closed.

Enter FBI Special Agent Avril Dahl. She believes that the circumstances of the case fit the modus operandi of a serial killer who has been pursued for fifteen years. “The Frost Killer,” Dahl explains, has already killed fifty-three women - the victim in the barn could be his fifty fourth. At first the sheriff is irked at the outsider’s attempt to undermine his team’s investigation, but the FBI Agent’s evidence is compelling, and the case is reopened. Then, a second local woman is found dead. 

The landscape in which the story unfolds is described with exquisite precision. Its remoteness, craggy mountains and perilous weather add to the sense of jeopardy that infuses the novel.

The story is initially told through a third person narrator and mainly from Savage’s viewpoint. Then, a few chapters in, the murderer’s point of view briefly interrupts the narrative. After this first intrusion, this change of perspective appears intermittently throughout the novel. These rare insights into the killer’s thoughts disrupt the story, challenging and unsettling the primary narrative voice. It is a skilfully executed and highly effective technique that adds to the suspense of the tale. 

The relationships between the individuals working on the case provide an interesting subplot running through the story.  The police officers are a tight group that reflect the community they serve. As they hunt for the killer, their sense of obligation to the people of Hawk’s Landing makes the investigation personal.  Having an outsider join the team brings its own problems and her character is, to say the least, enigmatic. 

The Frost Killer is the fourth in the Dalton Savage series, but the book works perfectly as a stand-alone. The plot has surprises aplenty and cliff-hanger chapter endings ensure you’ll turn the page to see what happens next. A great read and highly recommended.
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Biba Pearce grew up on the wild eastern coast of Southern Africa. She now lives in Surrey, and when she isn’t writing, can be found rambling through the countryside or kayaking on the river Thames. She writes gritty police procedurals and is the author of the bestselling DCI Rob Miller series published by Joffe Books. Her latest release, The Marlow Murders, was published in October 2023.  Look out for The Frost Killer, published 9 January 2024.

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction. 

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