Weeks, Lee - 'Dead of Winter'
Lee Weeks is an established British writer who, after spending time travelling and teaching English, now lives in Devon. DEAD OF WINTER is her fifth novel and features rookie Detective Constable Ebony Willis, who has had a rough start in life herself but despite, or maybe because of, this clearly has the potential to do very well in the police. The book is well written and highly enjoyable, with an awesome ending that I was nowhere near guessing. Weeks has previously been described as "a female James Patterson" and her earlier books have been Sunday Times bestsellers. I would certainly agree that she is a name worth looking out for.
DEAD OF WINTER is set in December, in the cold, with a lot of snow on the ground. This fits well with the stark, chilling atmosphere in the novel and the gruesome discoveries at the start. A woman's body is found buried beneath a patio in the back garden of a deserted cottage. Her newborn child, who was murdered before being allowed to take its first breath, has been buried with her. Examination of the scene by forensics unearths a single fingerprint, which links the killings to the unsolved murder of two women and a child some 13 years earlier. The prime suspect in that murder was the husband of one of the women – Callum Carmichael, a police officer with the Met at the time - who has since become a recluse and lives on a farm, raising sheep and brooding over his loss. Discovery of the fingerprint raises the profile of this old case, since no-one has ever been charged with the murder, and DC Ebony Willis is dispatched, through the snow, to go and talk with Carmichael.
In the light of this new evidence, it seems unlikely that Carmichael was the guilty party, so the old case is unofficially re-opened and Ebony soon finds herself the sole confidante of the poor man, who in sheer desperation has gone undercover to dig out the killer and finally have closure. Even though he is innocent after all, he is still an unknown liability and Ebony seems to be unwittingly leading him ever closer to the man who murdered his wife. The chase is on to find both Carmichael and the murderer before it is too late for either of them...
If you like your crime fiction gritty and a bit gruesome but not too bloodthirsty or twisted, then DEAD OF WINTER is definitely for you. While it didn't mess with my head, as all my favourite books tend to do, I couldn't put this book down and finished it quickly. Excellent.
Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland