night Frost by RD Wingfield is a fast read; I finished it in about a day and a half. I picked it up for 2 reasons: 1) I really enjoyed the TV series A Touch of Frost, and 2) it’s a murder mystery, which is pretty much my favourite literary genre. I must say, though, I found the cover rather peaked my curiosity: lonely and foreboding, with a touch of implied tragedy.
I was a bit taken aback at the beginning of the book. I didn’t remember the TV character being quite so bawdy or that Frost called women and young girls “cows” with such frequency. Perhaps it was just the lightened onscreen demeanour of David Jason in the series that doesn’t come across in the written word. In any case, as much as I wasn’t fond of that, the various plot lines — murders, disappearances, poison pen letters, flu epidemic, and the new detective sergeant, DS Gilmore, and his whining wife — kept me turning those pages. Frost’s slovenly appearance (reminiscent of Columbo but with sarcasm and suggestive remarks), lack of organizational skills, hunches that are taken as absolutes (proof or no proof), and lack of respect for his commander, Superintendent Mullet, quickly earn Frost the disdain of DS Gilmore, paired with him because DI Allen is out with the flu. Gilmore is definitely not a team player but is rather out to make brownie points to help himself up the promotion ladder and resents anyone who gets in his way or steals his thunder. He definitely doesn’t want to be associated with any of Frost’s fiddlin’ with evidence or forging of petrol receipts. Frost’s dedication, though, and intuition in the field, is often forceful and brave, with just a touch of humour: “This is a murder enquiry as of now. I want a team knocking on doors, I want Forensic, I want someone by the old girl’s bedside night and day in case she can give us a description. If I’ve forgotten anything, I want that as well.”
While Mullet is always prattling on about teamwork, his rush to take credit with his superior for successes, and to distance himself from failures (for which he invariably blames Frost), make him a laughing stock throughout the station. Frost’s hunches always seem right to him; however, once he begins to act on them, he is riddled with uncertainty, but then more often than not, they are proven correct. While he is stumbling around watching forensic evidence vanish and suspects slip his grasp, you keep trying to collect all the clues and the little tidbits previously thrown aside together in your own mind to figure out if this time will be the one where Frost might be right after all.
There are some pretty gruesome images and perversions in this novel (although not as bad as some I’ve read elsewhere; PD James comes to mind), but it’s rather balanced by the softer side of Frost that we see when he sits with a dying mother and lets her go thinking her son is all right, and when he avoids telling a heart-broken mother the real reason her daughter committed suicide. The work is fast-paced and riveting, and, just when you think Frost will be canned this time, it all comes together to make him a hero. * * * *