A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward

A Patient Fury is the third installment of the D.C. Connie Childs series by Sarah Ward.  I’ve read and reviewed the first two installments, In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw, here on the blog.  This is a really great series, and the most recent installment has two tense storylines.  However, the final pages of the book reveal a horror-like twist in the resolution of the truth of what really happened the night an entire family was murdered before their house went up in flames.

D.C. Childs’ first case since her return to work following the brutal attack she barely survived at the close of the last book is a violent family annihilation that will test her credibility and her career.  And seriously, the conflict regarding her career really should not have become as serious as it did.  Childs’ boss should know by now that when it comes to these cases, Childs’ instincts are always, always spot on.  Even when someone comes out of the woodwork as a witness and alibi for the son they abandoned a lifetime ago, Childs’ instincts regarding the perpetrator of the current crimes is spot on.  Do not disbelieve Childs.

When a young family is mercilessly murdered and their family home torched, Childs disbelieves the conclusion the evidence supports: that the young wife murdered her husband and young son, set the family home ablaze, and then hanged herself as the house burned down around her.  However, the crime more closely reflects violent male family annihilators who murder their families and then die by suicide.  Thus the events just don’t make sense to Childs given the research and the lack of motive or reason for Francesca Winson to kill her family and herself so violently.

This is not the first tragedy to befall the Winson family.  Three decades ago Elizabeth Winson, Peter’s first wife and the mother of his two adult children, disappeared without a trace.  She has never been located neither has her case been solved.  Childs’ instincts tell her that the unsolved disappearance of the first wife will provide insight into the current tragedy that has befallen the Winson family.

As Childs pursues this avenue of investigation despite being directly warned off of it by her immediate supervisor, D.I. Sadler, due to the forensic evidence, she becomes increasingly isolated from the team and anyone with whom she might have bounced theories and ideas off of as well as from whom she may have sought guidance.  Then Sadler, who has exhibited unusually, inexplicably short patience towards Childs’ contributions to the case, has enough and suspends her from the team and the case entirely.  While Childs’ career hangs in the balance and the perplexing case is officially closed despite Childs’ certainty that a murderer walks free, a surprising ally offers wise counsel and a limited respite for Childs to continue digging into the case to (hopefully) get at the truth.

Julia and George Winson, the aforementioned adult Winson children, cope with the shocking tragedy in different ways.  Julia attempts to make contact with her disappeared mother to no avail while volatile George insists his stepmother is an evil child murderer.  Yet an increasingly disturbed picture is painted of George, a violent bully in possession of a cruel, misogynist streak a mile wide.  Meanwhile a shady figure is seen at least twice outside Julia’s house as she deals with her grief and a difficult neighbor.

This is a page turning, suspenseful thriller.  This book was as hard to put down for the mystery as it was for the conflict regarding Childs’ career.  Ultimately when all is revealed to the reader (but not necessarily all the characters) the truth is far more twisted than originally imagined.

Some thoughts I had:

A new character, D.S. Matthews, is introduced to replace the departing D.S. Palmer who has put in for a transfer in the wake of the one night stand he had with Childs and the ensuing events in the previous book.  Don’t let the door hit him on the way out, I say.  Dude is already disengaged from the case a full month before his transfer even comes through for him.  He isn’t even half the detective that Childs is.

George’s scenes are frightening and especially volatile, and the man may be free now, but I don’t think he will remain that way.  At some point his temper/hubris and penchant for violence will land him in prison, and the world will be a safer place for it.

I don’t know what the new morgue tech’s problem with Childs is, and I don’t care.  It’s petty.  Presumably she’s basing her judgment solely on what has been told to her by her colleagues, the medical examiner and the other morgue tech, both of whom are friends of Childs.  Which means they wouldn’t have said anything unfavorable about Childs, right?  So what is the new morgue tech’s issue with D.C. Childs?

Childs’ plight with her career and suddenly difficult relationship with Sadler, her supervisor, is especially frustrating and infuriating considering he’s always in the past trusted her instincts on previous cases and has, in fact, come to rely on her insights regarding reading people involved with the cases.  Yet seemingly all of a sudden he can’t give her the time of day on this case to talk out her reservations regarding the forensic evidence.  And yet again her instincts prove correct even if a “credible” witness comes forward to disprove them.

Sadler sure knows how to pick ’em: first a married paramour (in the first installment), then an obsessive/possessive “bunny boiler” to use his sister’s accurate assessment and terminology of his former schoolmate.



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