Wednesday, January 8, 2020


FROZEN SUMMER by Ian Austin (2019)

Reviewed by Carolyn McKenzie

Dead isn’t always followed by and gone. An all but forgotten cold case, all for one person that is. No one in their right mind would go back again… Right mind? Correct!

Frozen Summer is the nickname Dan Calder’s girlfriend Tara gives to a cold case, the coldest one of all. Who else but Calder would contemplate investigating an unsolved killing where he’s the only suspect?

Psychologically tortured by Zoe Summers death to this day. Being there, being involved, covering it up. Armed with the police files from the original investigation, now he can inject his own witness evidence into the mix to generate new leads.

The time’s come to revisit the scene of his blackest experience in order to try and move on once and for all. At stake are the relationships with Tara, their new son Bradley and possibly his very liberty.

One way or another it ends here. Right here, right now.

Intriguingly, Frozen Summer begins at chapter 14. This and the seemingly contradictory words in the title and the gaunt, loosely defined figures on the cover are a promising indication that Frozen Summer ​is no ordinary whodunit.

Several years back, while working for the British police, undercover agent Dan Calder lost consciousness while on surveillance in a drug den. When he came to, he and a young female drug user were alone in the house. The teenager, Zoe Summers, had been murdered and, unable to account for how she had died, Dan decided to cover up his presence at the house. Now resident in New Zealand, Dan has returned to Britain to try to find out who killed Zoe: this means facing up to the possibility that has troubled him all this time: that he may have killed Zoe before he blacked out.
In Britain Dan quickly forms a team with other former police colleagues and their contacts in the force. Added to the mix are Dan’s partner, Tara, along with his friends’ wives and families.

Austin has drawn on his own knowledge of the British police system to assist Dan Calder in his quest and this gives the readers an interesting insight into investigative procedure in a cold case, even if Calder’s revisiting of the circumstances surrounding Zoe’s death is strictly off-the-record. The use of the Winthrop search technique is described in careful detail and I found this aspect of the investigation particularly engaging. The drug scene setting is very convincing and relevant.

Although Frozen Summer lacks the suspense, twists and red herrings of many whodunits, Dan’s team’s absolute dedication to uncovering how Zoe died highlights once again how much work is involved in re-examining in minute detail the many facets of a cold case.

Frozen Summer is the third book in Austin’s Dan Calder series. While occasional mention is made of previous cases that Dan has worked on, this book stands alone.

Discerning readers may be disturbed by some of the hiccoughs that more thorough proofreading would have picked up. In particular, to quote, "it is not all right to use alright in standard English". This and a number of other glitches detract from an otherwise very readable story and will hopefully be ironed out in future editions of Austin’s work.

Frozen Summer’s startling ending suggests there may be more Dan Calder still to come.

Carolyn McKenzie is a freelance proofreader, copy editor, and Italian-English translator. She also offers holiday accommodation for writers and others in Thames, New Zealand and Ventimiglia Alta, Italy. 

This review was first published in FlaxFlower reviews, which focuses on in-depth reviews of New Zealand books of all kinds, and is reprinted here with the kind permission of website editor Bronwyn Elsmore. 

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