Cold to the Touch, By Frances Fyfield

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The Independent Culture

This is crime fiction with a difference. You could read the first half without even identifying it as a crime novel, until the body unexpectedly, nerve-janglingly turns up. There's no police procedure, no hunting for clues, no interviewing of suspects, no being led up the garden path. It's much more about the impact of death on normal people.

Sarah Fortune, a high-class escort with a heart of gold (it sounds like a cliché but she is an unusually real heroine) leaves London for the seaside village of Pennyvale, where her friend Jessica used to live. The village is picturesque and polite but Sarah is sensitive to scandal under the surface. Meanwhile, Jessica is having man-trouble back in London. Then she goes missing. Sarah sets out to discover what happened to her, employing intuition and knowledge of human nature.

Frances Fyfield's style is lyrical. Of an abattoir she writes: "Walking along with the slightly swaying carcasses was like walking amongst a silent well-behaved crowd." It says "Crime fiction" on the back of the book, but it should say "Literature".

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