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Five chilling winter reads

Cold Reckoning author Russ Thomas on his favourite novels to chill you to the core…


When I sat down to write Cold Reckoning I knew only one thing: it would be set during a harsh winter. Nestled at the foot of the Derbyshire Peaks and surrounded by hills, Sheffield is notorious for its cold snowy winters. They don’t tend to last long but for a few days, cars lie abandoned at odd angles at the side of the road, and residents slide up and down their icy streets. I thought of the picturesque Damflask Reservoir and imagined a body, naked and bound, found trapped just beneath the frozen surface. So if you’re a fan of chilly winter thrillers, here are five other snowbound tales that I highly recommend.

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller

Snowdrops is the unlikely term given to the bodies of Moscow’s homeless and dispossessed that often don’t push their way to the surface until Winter’s thaw. Miller uses this image to devastating effect in his 2011 debut thriller about a British lawyer who gets sucked into the Russian underworld. Clever and compelling, this taut morality tale stays with you long after you put it down.


The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

Set in the frozen wilds of Canada in the 1860s, this critically acclaimed novel starts with the discovery of a murder and evolves into one woman’s hunt to find her missing son. There’s a huge cast of characters and the writing keeps the reader guessing all the way through, but it’s Penney’s bleak but beautiful exploration of the frigid Canadian wilderness that shines out and steals the show.


Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson

There are, of course, no end to the Scandi-Noir novels I could have picked for this article but I settled on this cracker. The first in Jonasson’s Dark Icelandic thrillers, here we see newly appointed rookie cop Ari Thor Arason investigating the discovery of a woman found bleeding into the snow in a tiny fishing village in Northern Iceland accessible only by tunnel. The claustrophobia and secrets of small town life are as difficult to penetrate as the frozen landscape itself. Great stuff!


Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
Perhaps this is closer to a ghost story than a thriller, but Paver’s truly chilling story of an ill-fated expedition to the Arctic in 1937 is so evocative I had to include it. Jack Miller is the odd-man-out narrator of the story who sets out for us, in spine-tingling detail, the series of bad luck events that throws the expedition wildly off course. Truly haunting, Dark Matter is the sort of book that makes you feel cold just by reading it.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Foley’s modern version of an Agatha Christie-esque whodunit sees a group of friends travel to a remote Scottish hunting lodge for New Year’s celebrations only to discover they are not perhaps as close as they thought. Soon, the various secrets and fractures between the friends are unearthed, and as the wild Highland weather closes in, tensions lead inevitably to murder.

Cold Reckoning

'A rollercoaster ride of a thriller . . . will keep you hanging on by your fingertips until the tense final moments' PETER ROBINSON


The death of DS Tyler’s father irrevocably changed his life. As a child, he believed Richard had killed himself but, as the years have passed, Tyler has grown convinced he was murdered.   

When a cold case lands on Tyler’s desk, there’s nothing immediately notable about it, apart from the link it has to his father. Richard was investigating the same case shortly before he died.
Finally, Tyler has a tangible link to the past, one that could give him the answers he has been looking for. And while there are dangerous people who will do anything to keep him quiet, he knows he has to keep digging.

Because you’d risk anything for your family – even your life.

From the bestselling author of FIREWATCHING and NIGHTHAWKING.


'Compelling and totally immersive. It’s a brilliant read for anyone with a love of tense intelligent thrillers, with pitch-perfect dialogue' KATE RHODES, author of DEVIL'S TABLE

'I was hooked on DS Adam Tyler from the first page . . . Spot on' SAM HOLLAND, author of THE ECHO MAN

Praise for the DS Adam Tyler series

'Riveting' HEAT
'Exceptional' AJ FINN
'Clever and compulsive' LOUISE CANDLISH
'I loved it' LEE CHILD
'Fresh and original' KATE RHODES
'A cracking read with a terrific new detective lead' SARAH HILARY
'Totally absorbed me' CASS GREEN
'Intelligent, pacy and compelling, it's everything you could want from a crime novel' SARAH WARD