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by Martin Edwards
Poisoned Pen Press, April 2013
286 pages
ISBN: 1464201056

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

As literature - as well as life itself - is fond of reminding us, the past is truly prologue and often inescapable. With this in mind, author Martin Edwards gives us THE FROZEN SHROUD, the sixth in his Lake District mystery series featuring "murder" scholar Daniel Kind and DCI Hannah Scarlett, as they investigate a series of brutal Halloween murders in the small hamlet of Ravenham in England's Lake District.

As THE FROZEN SHROUD opens, the small town of Ravenham has experienced two horrific murders in the past half century, all of which happened on Halloween when beautiful yet controversial young women were killed with their faces beaten in. While no one has been brought to justice for the murders, the presumed guilty parties were killed prior to being questioned by the police and the cases were assumed to be closed. Former television personality and scholar on the fine art of murder Daniel Kind is giving a talk on his specialty of murder when an eccentric friend inquires about the first murder that occurred half a century ago, which leads him to start researching primary documents related to the case in local archives in search of the truth.

At the same time, Daniel's friend DCI Hannah Scarlett is overwhelmed by the scars of a recently ended relationship. To make things worse, the austerity cutbacks being imposed upon the police force have crippled her cold case unit's ability to do its job. At the behest of friends, Daniel attends a lavish Ravenham Halloween party, where a brutally disfigured body is discovered the next morning - Hannah's best friend Terri, who recently broke off a relationship with a man with a violent past and quickly found herself engaged to a local Ravenham resident.

THE FROZEN SHROUD is masterful in its plotting and author Martin Edwards has concocted a haunting, plausible, and briskly paced mystery that will surely please fans of modern British mysteries; as well the setting of England's Lake District is welcome respite from the streets of London. However, where THE FROZEN SHROUD falters a bit is in its characterizations which border on the generic and make it hard for the reader to care about them. The main protagonists of Daniel and Hannah are amiable enough, but they are both shallowly drawn and tend to act the way bad stereotypes of their characters would; elsewhere the supporting characters seem to fill out stock caricatures in a way that is quite disappointing.

Concerns about characterization and lack of heft aside, THE FROZEN SHROUD is a more than worthwhile novel to dive into for mystery lovers. Especially for those in the mood for a solid mystery with an intriguing premise and locale, this latest Lake District tale is sure to satisfy; just do not expect anything deep in far as characterizations or social commentary is concerned.

Ben Neal is a public librarian in northeastern Tennessee and likes to fancy himself an amateur writer, humorist, detective, and coffee connoisseur in his spare time. He can be reached at beneneal@indiana.edu.

Reviewed by Ben Neal, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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