Thursday, 13 December 2012

Fatal Frost

The late R.D. Wingfield's famous scruffy detective lives on again in this the second book featuring the early investigations by Frost. It's 1982 and Frost is currently a Detective Sergeant though due to the absence of most of the higher ranks at Eagle Lane he's doing the job he'd eventually rise to in Wingfield's books. James Henry is the working name of a duo of writers attempting to capture the beloved character. It always seems to me that the character has had as many negative habits pinned to him as possible but with the mission of making the detective still likeable. He smokes so heavily even the smokers feel ill, he hardly changes his clothes even in a heatwave, rarely goes home, drinks on the job, though to be fair so does the rest of the squad-room and he's cheating on his wife. Really he's the only fully formed character in the book along with the heavily caricatured Mullett. They're polar opposites, equally disdainful of each other but the two of them are stuck together. It's a situation that sort of underpins the whole series and generates most of the amusement. The other characters don't really have a lot to them, which sadly includes the new guy, DS Waters, Denton's first black policeman. It's a strand that had potential but it never really goes anywhere and pulls its punches when touching on racism within the force during the 80s.
Fatal Frost is a very readable and entertaining police procedural, with several cases ongoing which sort of overlap in places. Looking in on a younger Frost is a great idea. The little touches of period detail tend to pop out of the narrative unexpectedly. It's a bit like driving over unseen speed bumps. They jolt you out of the story because they don't quite blend into the contemporary perspective. Two quid would have been two quid, and bins would have been bins, with no mention of what material they were both made out of. As someone who was thirteen at the time I can appreciate the nostalgia evoked but it does seem to have a slight retrospective feel to it that probably doesn't compare to books actually written in the 80s. It's not a big problem though. I'd certainly read any more books in the series. So crack open a can of Harp lager, reach for a pack of Rothmans (maybe not), stick Alison Moyet on the record player and dive into the 80s with that scruffy bloke with a dead cat in his car.
Review from an advanced reading copy.