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A Killing Frost by R. D. Wingfield

A Killing Frost (2008)

by R. D. Wingfield

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I received this Inspector Frost novel as a Birthday present, as it is no secret among my friends that I liked the Inspector Frost series on television.

I was thrilled to go and find out to see if Frost would be as witty and sarcastic as he is on TV, and I was not disappointed. =D Besides, there was a nice and interesting detective story. How could I possibly ask for anything more? ( )
  Floratina | May 26, 2016 |
If you’ve seen the talented David Jason’s portrayal of Detective Inspector Frost on television, then you will certainly recognise much of that bluff, cheeky, living-in-his-raincoat image in R. D. Wingfield’s original novels. Jason reputedly read one and was instantly attracted to the idea of adapting the character for television.

The word ‘adapting’ is crucial here. I was familiar with the Yorkshire TV series, and felt ready to check out one of the original books. This is the sixth and final instalment in the Frost series, and I understand the author was terminally ill while he was writing it (he died in 2007 and the novel was published the following year). While many were saddened at his death, and the inevitable consequence of no more duties for Jack Frost, I understand that Wingfield was not especially fond of his character. On this reader’s experience, I have to say it shows...

In A Killing Frost the detective is faced with a range of crimes on his patch that are particularly nasty – rape, missing children, blackmail and murder. Add to that a determined effort by Superintendent Mullett and another senior officer to remove Frost from Denton, and life becomes ever more troublesome for the slovenly policeman. David Jason tidied up the image for television, but here on the page the character is earthy at best. His appearance and personal habits are understandably irksome to those higher up the ranks, while his determination to bring felons to justice by putting in more effort than his higher-salaried counterparts is to be admired. There are many occasions when Frost’s lack of respect for his superiors is artfully and sympathetically illustrated, with those same officers depicted as shallow, cowardly and all too ready to pick up credit for the achievements of those at the sharp end of duty. But I do find myself wondering how accurate those impressions might be of our modern police force, and perhaps it would be easier to acknowledge a more realistic and well-balanced view in the screen adaptations.

I do admire Wingfield for one particular area of writing: the dialogue scenes are excellent. Given that he wrote over forty radio plays, the spoken word was clearly his strength, and the gritty verbal cut and thrust in A Killing Frost is especially effective because of the author’s skill in this department. The characters are well-drawn on the whole, although some might be slightly prone to caricature. (One unfortunate police constable had an annoying habit of being so unreliable that I found it impossible to believe he could ever have been accepted into the force.) But my main complaint was Wingfield’s tendency to be anachronistic with some elements of his plot.

As already touched upon, a good portion of the story is taken up by a running battle between Frost and his superior officers, who finally manage to coerce the hapless detective to take a transfer by holding up evidence that he had been fiddling expense claims (the chief example being handwritten receipts for petrol). Bearing in mind this was written in 2007, and the fictional setting of Denton is a large urban community, I found it highly unlikely that anyone would be presenting petrol receipts in a format where a number 5 could be amended to an 8, purely because it had been written out by hand! I could only assume that it had been a very long time since Mr Wingfield had personally purchased any petrol.

But the worst anachronism appeared as early as the second page, with the first instance of spoken text – “Operator, get me the police... Denton Police.” That would be an understandable call from a man whose dog has just unearthed a human foot while out on a walk, but spoken into a mobile phone?! For the benefit of the younger generation I should explain that at one time you could dial 0 from a phone and speak to a person who could provide live assistance in connecting you to a person or place for which you might not have the full number. But to my certain knowledge that service was only ever available on landlines.

This particular fictional detective was certainly ‘old school’, and something of an anachronism himself in the modern world of policing. But he had his place in our hearts. I was one of many who thoroughly enjoyed the television interpretation of R. D. Wingfield’s popular creation, and I just feel disappointed with this final, personal farewell from the author. While the media interpretation sent Jack Frost off with a view of life like the proverbial glass that is half full, the pages of the book depict someone who just drained it completely, with nothing left in his wallet for a taxi home. A bitter taste to end with.
( )
  AlanVeale | May 7, 2015 |
Any Frost book is a perfect reread for the long hit days of an Australian summer... ( )
  frances24 | Jan 28, 2012 |
Confession up front - I don't read these books for their plots, their scenarios or even in an attempt to find the flaws in the procedural elements. I read them because I love Frost, Mullet, George Toolan, Ernie Trigg and the ever changing assortment of DS's that come and go in Frost's world. I love Denton, (wouldn't want to live there - the constant crime waves would do your head in after a while), but really, the point of the Frost books for me, at least, is more about time with old friends than it is necessarily about strong police procedurals.

I guess I should also admit that it's now pretty well impossible to read a Frost book without seeing and hearing David Jason in the title role from the TV series, which is possibly also why I don't see some personality characteristics that other readers often comment on. I "see" the dialogue with a twinkle in the eye, with a strong coating of irony or self-deprecation. I hear a quintessentially tongue in cheek bit of a rogue policeman with a way of needling away at a case until it gets solved. Regardless of the resourcing problems, regardless of how much he annoys the upper echelons, and how many favours he calls in from his colleagues.

I realise there is a distinct possibility that this could be seen as very odd, as often the cases are violent, and there is always a lot of simultaneous crime going on in these books, but I really do find the Frost series increasingly a bit of a comfort read. Not just because Frost is a copper who keeps going until everything's solved, not just because he's a copper who you'd trust to do the right thing, but also because there's something wonderfully English, something very realistic about the way that the cases are portrayed, the juggling that goes on everyday in an under-resourced, overworked and extremely human police force. ( )
1 vote austcrimefiction | Dec 12, 2011 |
Sadly this was the last Frost book, as RD Wingfield died in 2007, but it is a fitting final piece of work which captures the essence of Frost and his colleagues, especially Supt Mullett. Although the plot is a very serious and in places grim one, about the murders of several young women, Wingfield still manages to inject much humour into the story, especially in Frost's exchanges with other characters. For fans of Jack Frost as well those new to the character, this shouldn't be missed. ( )
  edwardsgt | Sep 3, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0552156892, Mass Market Paperback)

A gripping new investigation for the inimitable Detective Inspector Jack Frost.

The discovery of the bodies of two young girls leaves D.I. Jack Frost in a race to hunt down the killer before he, or she, can strike again. At the same time, he faces a crisis at Denton police station which could result in his being sacked.

Jack Frost, brought to magnificent life by David Jason in the TV series, staggers from crisis to crisis, his bumbling modus operandus disguising his extraordinary powers of detection.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The discovery of two young girls' bodies leaves Detective Inspector Jack Frost in a race to hunt down the killer before he, or she, can strike again. At the same time he faces a crisis at Denton police station which could result in him being sacked.

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