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Review: DI Jack Frost series (Books 1-6) by R.D. Wingfield | Stephen Tall

Review: DI Jack Frost series (Books 1-6) by R.D. Wingfield

by Stephen Tall on August 2, 2015

frost seriesI didn’t approach R.D. Wingfield’s DI Jack Frost series with any great enthusiasm. I’d seen enough of ITV’s Sunday night schedule-filler, with David Jason in the title role, to assume it would be lightweight, middlebrow, plodding fare, with signposted comic interludes.

I was utterly wrong. I gorged all six books in the series — Frost at Christmas, A Touch of Frost, Night Frost, Hard Frost, Winter Frost and A Killing Frost — within a couple of months.

There’s little point writing an individual review of each, as they all follow the same formula… There are usually three cases on the go in each book: a child/prostitute serial murderer, something rapey, and a robbery. Frost, of course, solves all three, each time accompanied by a different sidekick sergeant he’s been mis-matched with (female / posh / ambitious). On the way, he always succeeds in getting one over on his boss, Superintendent Mullett.

Described like that, it sounds typically banale and padded ITV fare. Yet R.D. Wingfield’s writing is anything but. The books are weighty, typically around 500 pages, but they crack along. Frost is multi-dimensional and scatalogically funny, the dialogue believably terse and crude, the narrative pacy, the plot-twists surprising. In short, they are (cue the reviewer’s standby cliche) page-turners, genuinely excellent detective novels.

There are flaws. In particular, the books’ casual sexism will jar with the modern reader. There are recurring motifs of Frost “jokingly” sexually assaulting Mullett’s secretary; there’s lots of sexual leering masquerading as banter; prostitutes are rhyming slanged as “toms”; child pornography is regarded as a minor offence; under-age girls are portrayed as knowing Lolitas; and a frumpy, middle-aged lady notorious for ‘crying rape’ is a stand-by comedy caricature.

Some readers may find it hard to get past these. For what it’s worth, I find them more fascinatingly revealing of the times (the series was published between 1984 and 2008) than I do irredeemably offensive.

My advice: get stuck in, judge for yourself.

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