The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon

January 5th, 2024 Kimberly Review 19 Comments

5th Jan

I love a good murder-mystery and was intrigued by the synopsis of The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon. Narrated by Jane Oppenheimer, the tale that unfolds in Maine, 1789 held me captive from the first chapter. Grab a cup of hot tea and see why I recommended grabbing your earbuds for this one.

The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon
The Frozen River
by Ariel Lawhon
Narrator: Jane Oppenheimer
Length: 15 hours and 5 minutes
Genres: Mystery
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Narration: 5 cups Speed: 1.5x

From the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia and Code Name Hélène comes a gripping historical mystery inspired by the life and diary of Martha Ballard, a renowned 18th-century midwife who defied the legal system and wrote herself into American history.

Maine, 1789: When the Kennebec River freezes, entombing a man in the ice, Martha Ballard is summoned to examine the body and determine cause of death. As a midwife and healer, she is privy to much of what goes on behind closed doors in Hallowell. Her diary is a record of every birth and death, crime and debacle that unfolds in the close-knit community. Months earlier, Martha documented the details of an alleged rape committed by two of the town’s most respected gentlemen—one of whom has now been found dead in the ice. But when a local physician undermines her conclusion, declaring the death to be an accident, Martha is forced to investigate the shocking murder on her own.

Over the course of one winter, as the trial nears, and whispers and prejudices mount, Martha doggedly pursues the truth. Her diary soon lands at the center of the scandal, implicating those she loves, and compelling Martha to decide where her own loyalties lie.

Clever, layered, and subversive, Ariel Lawhon’s newest offering introduces an unsung heroine who refused to accept anything less than justice at a time when women were considered best seen and not heard. The Frozen River is a thrilling, tense, and tender story about a remarkable woman who left an unparalleled legacy yet remains nearly forgotten to this day.

historical MURDERMYSTERY Standalone well written

I am so glad the stunning cover caused me to examine The Frozen River. This was a good mystery-thriller, as well as a look at life, particularly for women in 1789. The story, while fictional, finds its inspiration from the diary of Martha Ballard, a renowned 18th-century midwife who defied the legal system and wrote herself into American history.

A body is found when the Kennebec River freezes. Martha, the local midwife for the small community of Hallowell, Maine, is asked to examine the body. Martha, both midwife and healer, meticulously documents births, illnesses, crimes and events as they unfold in her community. The man found dead is one of two respected gentlemen of the community who four months earlier were accused of rape. Martha examines the body and finds he has been murdered. But when a local physician undermines her conclusions by claiming the death accidental, Martha and the town will be tested.

Lawhon gave us an up-close and personal look at rural life in the 1700s. I admired Martha and found her blessed to have a supportive husband. The murder-mystery & previous rape brilliantly hit on the dynamics of small-town prejudices and preconceived notions, not to mention the inequalities facing women and social standing. Some issues still resonate with news headlines.

I found the medical treatments fascinating as Martha supported the community and the stark differences between her treatments and those of the learned male doctor. She even seeks the guidance of a woman in the woods who makes herbs and treats aliments.

The author threw in a few twists and completely pulled me into the investigation as the state magistrate interviewed townsfolk under oath. I loved the building of tension and Martha’s determination to speak for the young woman and the dead.

Jane Oppenheimer narrates and does a splendid job of capturing not only Martha but the rest of the townsfolk & characters. I highly recommend listening.

Fans of historical fact-based fiction, murder-mysteries and healers will find Martha, her journal and this case fascinating. I highly recommend googling Martha Ballard.

Amazon | Audible

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the critically acclaimed, New York Times Bestselling author of THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS, FLIGHT OF DREAMS, I WAS ANASTASIA, and CODE NAME HELENE. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, Indie Next, Costco, and Book of the Month Club selections. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, and black Lab—who is, thankfully, a girl. Ariel splits her time between the grocery store and the baseball field.

About Jane Oppenheimer

Jane Oppenheimer

From memoirs to mysteries to YA fantasies, Jane Oppenheimer’s engaging narration style and honest characterizations enthrall her listeners. She graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with a BFA in Theater. She has performed in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Regional theaters, as well as on television and film. Her voice-over work can be heard on commercials, corporate videos and theme park rides. When she’s not talking to herself in the booth, she’s most likely poring over design magazines and websites for her next renovation project or scouring open houses in search of the next property to restore.

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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19 Responses to “The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon”

  1. Katherine

    The cover of this one pulled me in and this is an author I’ve been wanting to read more from. This sounds fascinating and definitely one I need to get the audio on.