Series: Inspector Frost #1
Released: January 1, 1984
Ten days to Christmas and Tracey Uphill, aged eight, hasn’t come home from Sunday school. Her mother, a pretty young prostitute, is desperate. Enter Detective Inspector Jack Frost, sloppy, scruffy and insubordinate. To help him investigate the case of the missing child, Frost has been assigned a new sidekick, the Chief Constable’s nephew. Fresh to provincial Denton in an oversmart suit, Detective Constable Clive Barnard is an easy target for Frost’s withering satire.
Assisted and annoyed by Barnard, Frost, complete with a store of tasteless anecdotes to fit every occasion, proceeds with the investigation in typically unorthodox style. After he’s consulted a local witch, Dead Man’s Hollow yields up a skeleton. Frost finds himself drawn into an unsolved crime from the past and risks not only his career, but also his life.
This is the first book about Inspector Jack Frost, the source-material for the tv-series “A Touch of Frost”. The book is considerably darker than what I recall the series being, and Jack is portrayed as a less likeable character, but in the “you wouldn’t expect like him, but you can’t stop yourself from taking his side anyway”-antihero kind of way. The problem is that this is done without any subtlety, which got rather annoying after a while. Frost will be excessively obnoxious in a childish way, but a few pages later something is done or said that redeems him. The gradual revealing of Frost’s intriguing, dark, history (because every conflicted detective needs one) seems forced, as if it was inserted into the book wherever an excuse could be found to fit it in. All that aside, this is a decent crime-mystery. The main plot is quite good, and the story held up better than I thought it would. Unfortunately there are also a lot of distracting elements. Among them are more than a few sexually themed asides, which purposefully border on what would be considered legally or morally acceptable. In some places it is relevant and justified by the story, but elsewhere it seems to be used, excessively, to build under the already artificial-seeming ‘dark’ mood and tone of the story. Still though, this is a good detective-story, but it could probably have been told a bit better.