Murder Against the Odds, by Janice Frost

3 Mar
Cover for Murder Against the Odds: the background is a stone path or bridge, with iron rails on the side and stone column with lights on top; it's night and slightly foggy, as a woman walks away from the camera. She has either light blonde or fully white hair, about shoulder length, and is wearing a knee length red coat over dark pants and flat shoes or boots. The tagline at the bottom reads, "a totally gripping crime thriller full of twists".

Reader beware: several mentions of suicide, not all sensitively done, and murder and suicide on page. This is a review of a digital ARC provided via NetGalley.

Murder Against the Odds, by Janice Frost

This is the third book in the Warwick and Bell series, as well as my introduction to the author, and it follows two women working in policing in Lincoln, England. The story it told mainly from the point of view of both women, especially Jane, with a couple of chapters told from the points of view of minor characters, without much rhyme or reason that I could see.

I found the writing uneven, especially Jane’s characterization, and yet, I read all three hundred pages in two sittings, which these days is nothing to sneeze at.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

The early hours of a freezing January night. Special Constable Jane Bell is at the end of a busy late shift when she’s called out to investigate strange noises in a local park. She finds a wailing new-born baby girl dumped in a plastic storage box.

That same night Detective Steph Warwick attends the murder of coach driver Bernie Gore, whose battered body is found in a narrow alleyway.

The last thing Jane wants is to lock horns with Steph Warwick once again. Then vital evidence emerges linking Bernie Gore’s murder to the abandoned baby. And Jane has no choice but to alert the sharp-tongued detective inspector.

If they are to solve Bernie’s murder and track down Baby Elsa’s mother, the two women must bury the hatchet and learn to work together.

Matters become even more complicated when a prime suspect emerges — with close links to Jane’s family.

The blurb hints at an adversarial relationship between the two women, but that’s honestly not what I got from the novel. It’s more two people who have little in common but who, when forced by circumstances to interact with each other, discover that they aren’t as different or incompatible as they thought, and thus learn to first respect, then appreciate each other.

While I enjoyed the book despite not having read the previous installments, there are a number of references to prior events, and more than a few minor characters, that clutter the story. Some of these are part of Jane’s life as a member of the community, but the level of detail given for each is often disproportionate for the role they play in the plot.

I found Jane tiresome in her inconsistencies. She suspects people and forms opinions based on analysis of behavior and facts, and then immediately back pedals and spouts the most Pollyanna bullshit about the same people, like a naive waif born yesterday.

For example, she’s worried about the influence a woman she herself has decided is an attention seeking manipulator (aka, a narcissist) has on a young friend with no family, so she decides to investigate the woman. Then, as soon as someone gives her details, Jane decides that that witness is ‘obsessed’ with the person she herself suspects, and that the witness can’t be reliable–rather than go check whether or not there’s any substance to the allegations.

Then things like, she doesn’t want to know whether the man she’s in a relationship with cheated on his own ex-wife, because “he deserved to be judged without prejudice”, when not five pages before it’s all about how women trust men ‘at their own peril’ and reflecting about what policing has taught her about people, and men in particular.

Steph for her part is antisocial and a bit paranoid, apparently with reason (her backstory is never fully spelled out, but what is mentioned is pretty horrific). I found it interesting that we learn so little about her, that I’m not even sure if she’s younger or older than Jane.

Also interesting that even though Steph’s partner (or immediate subordinate/bagman) is on page at least as much as she is, he’s not considered a main character.

On balance, I think the book could have used tighter editing. Aside from a couple of copy-editing errors (Steph referring to the victim by another character’s name; using endometriosis when meaning endometritis), characters do or say something, then a chapter later they explain the same thing as if the topic/even/person had never been brought up before. Reading this novel felt like watching a good play while being distracted by seeing parts of the scaffolding behind the stage peeking through the backdrops.

I am not sure that I want to keep up with Jane and Steph, but I may give one of the author’s other stories a try.

Murder Against the Odds gets a 7.75 out of 10.

This book will be released on Saturday March 4

3 Responses to “Murder Against the Odds, by Janice Frost”

  1. willaful 08/03/2023 at 11:39 PM #

    I think I would find this one too irritating to enjoy.

    • azteclady 08/03/2023 at 11:52 PM #

      It wasn’t so much annoying as unsatisfactory. I’m too used to stories that are more cohesive. This one felt like a bunch of separate threads that occasionally came close to each other, then diverged again.


  1. Fateful Words, by Paige Shelton | Her Hands, My Hands - 29/03/2023

    […] irritant is the same character inconsistency I noted in one of the main characters in Murder Against the Odds: Delaney is suspicious of someone, but when another character shares his own suspicious, she […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: