Broadway/Crown/Random House, 294 pgs
Submitted by Crown Publishing Group
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - Ian MacLaren (Rev. John Watson)
It is winter in Lake Placid, New York, the Adirondacks, and so bitterly bone-numbingly cold that your eyelashes will freeze if you stay out for any length of time, say, three minutes. Winter is a character here, imposing itself on everyone and everything. It must be respected. (I have a dear friend who contends that hell is actually cold.) The land, the Adirondacks, is also a character, integral to the plot. Troy Chance, freelance journalist, is covering the construction of the annual Winter Carnival ice palace for the local newspaper. This entails lots of men and heavy equipment and gigantic blocks of ice. They dig these ice blocks out of Saranac Lake to construct the ice palace. All is going according to plan until they find that one of the ice blocks they dig up contains the body of Tobin Winslow, a newly-arrived-in-town mystery man.
Troy knew Tobin; he dated Jessamyn, one of Troy's (Troy is a she) housemates. Tobin has been missing for weeks and everyone assumed he had just blown out of town the same way he blew in. There are no visible injuries to the body and no obvious cause of death. Is it murder, suicide or accident? And if the death was not murder then where is Tobin's truck? Jessamyn, of course, is suspected early on because she's the girlfriend. Troy herself is questioned as a housemate of the dead man's girlfriend. And no, she didn't like Tobin at all. She considered him little more than a frat boy slumming it, for reasons of his own, in an insular hard-scrabble mountain town.
Troy's editor at the paper asks her to write a series of articles on Tobin's life. She reluctantly agrees and as soon as she begins researching and asking questions a hornet's nest buzzes to furious life. In short order there are: hang-up calls in the middle of the night, threatening emails and notes, someone lets the air out of her tires, someone breaks into Tobin's cabin and ransacks the place. The further Troy probes the murkier the story becomes. Then Tobin's sister Win arrives in Lake Placid, drawn by the articles Troy has written. The two quickly form a dynamic duo to find out what happened to Tobin Winslow.
There are no spoilers here. Suffice it to say that the secrets uncovered among family and friends of the deceased are potent enough to scramble your brain and require years of therapy. Page 195 is a whopper, I'm telling you. The metaphor is keys. Keys figure prominently. Tobin's keys are missing. He kept a key under a flowerpot on his porch and who knew it was there? Turns out there's a safe deposit box but where is the key to it? No one locks their doors in this neck of the Adirondacks but they begin to do so before this story is finished.
Problems first, get them out of the way, there are only a couple. First, there is a subplot involving Jessamyn and her long-lost father that struck me as a distraction. I wanted to swat it like a housefly. Second, the last chapter should've been titled "Epilogue." Each character is addressed in his or her own paragraph or two, telling you exactly what happened to everyone involved, laid out for us as if we were middle-schoolers. I could visualize the big red bow tied around the story. But those are minor stumbles, really.
|Sara J. Henry|
The plot is well paced. It begins with a bang on page one with the discovery of the body. There are no lulls here but do not expect the story to get in your face or scream at you. It follows you around and whispers, makes suggestions; maybe prods you in the ribs with a finger. The story accrues. If you are patient it will reward you. A Cold and Lonely Place is the second book in Sara J. Henry's series starring journalist Troy Chance, following the Agatha Award-winning debut Learning to Swim. I'm gonna go to the library now and pick up the first book.
And I have exciting news about this one! The lovely folks at Crown have provided me with five copies to give away. Come back tomorrow and found out how to win a copy for yourself or to give as a holiday gift.