R D Wingfield’s three original Frost books were some of the first crime novels that I read back in 1992, just as the TV series came out. I loved the books as the Frost character brought this almost anarchic quality to them. As you read the book, you lost all sense of time as Frost rushed round, juggling multiple cases, dragging the latest hapless DC with him, in an increasingly sleep deprived state, finally solving all the cases much to Mullett’s disgust. I read all of Wingfield’s later Frost books and when he died in 2007 I thought that would be the end of Frost.
I was a little apprehensive when I saw that James Henry was writing a series of prequels to the Frost series, but decided to try the first book. I wondered whether someone else would be able to capture both the style of writing and Frost’s character, which in the books is so different to that portrayed by David Jason in the TV series A Touch of Frost. I wasn’t disappointed and read both First Frost and Fatal Frost, which started with Frost’s early career in Denton. The books have captured the essence of Frost very well, keeping that seedy air about him ranging from his inappropriate jokes to poor dress sense and complete disorganisation in both his personal and professional lives.
So, to Morning Frost, which is the third prequel and brings us to 1982. The opening of the book is one of the worst days of Frost’s life, with his wife Mary’s funeral. Frost’ lives up to his character by getting drunk and behaving badly at the wake, but is rescued by loyal colleagues, which show how much respect Frost has form the people that really matter. A number of cases emerge – body parts turn up on a farm, Harry Baskin is shot at his exotically named club, the Coconut Grove and there is no clue about the hit and run on a local paperboy. And it’s not just the cases, DC Sue Clark finds out she’s pregnant and confides in Frost who wonders whether he’s actually the father!
As the story develops, yet more cases emerge, with a payroll snatch, Harry Baskin’s would be assassin getting ready to shoot Frost and some dodgy dealing in local antiques. Frost continues to work on the cases, and forgets about the day to day to the extent that at one point he has run out of clean clothes because he doesn’t know how to use the washing machine. As always the different elements of story start to weave together into solutions that solve the crimes, although at the end of the book, there’s one case, where the answer won’t be something Superintendent Mullet will be too pleased about.
There’s lots of things to like about this book, including cleverly interwoven plot lines, great characters and regular comic absurdity like Frost turning up for work wearing a Christmas reindeer jumper because he’s run out of clothes. I think James Henry has brought Frost back to life well, although now the prequels have finished, I’m not quite sure what comes next for Jack.