Saturday, December 12, 2020

Book Review: Cold Wind by Paige Shelton


Cold Wind is the sequel to Paige Shelton's first Alaska mystery, Thin Ice.
In spite of the fact that the first volume in the series ends with the cliff hanger of finding a body unrelated to the mystery in that book, this one opens five months later....and the identity of that body has not yet been found.   This is... a bit of a stretch.  I can only guess that Shelton really wanted to use wintery weather in this book to make the plot work and thus had to leave that body in the morgue for months.  Other than that, there is really only one other bit which bothered me: in the climax of the story, as the sequence of killings --- and there are MANY killings and bodies in this tale -- is being revealed, the reader is never told why on earth the first murder happens, only that it tips off the chain of events which follows.  This is irksome.
However, this is still an excellent book.
Shelton continues the drama of protagonist Beth Rivers' unsolved attacker from the first book and weaves it nicely into the background of the intricate plot (multiple murders and surly loners who just don't want to talk) of this one.  To the cast of tough gal Viola of the halfway house, Gril the sheriff and his assistant Donner, Orin the pot-smoking librarian who looks like Willie Nelson, and Benny from the diner, Shelton now fleshes out the characters of Randy who runs the mercantile, Lane the loner who's not telling his past, and Tex the surly guy from the next village who's clearly keeping secrets.  These characters have lots of layers, so no one seems fake.
The basic plot line is that a recent mudslide opens up an old logging road about which most of the locals had forgotten, and this road allows for the finding of a body in a shed, a body which seems to have been frozen for a while.  Then a couple of mysterious and silent children wander into town, strange screams are heard, and someone is doing a very good Big Foot impersonation in the woods.
Who is Lane, really?  Why won't he talk about his past?  What is he hiding?  Why can't the little girls talk?  Who is their mother, and if they're really sisters, why are they of different races?  Why does Randy have an apartment in NYC that hasn't been lived in in years?  Where is his wife?  And how does the body found in the water connect to all this?
This is not a simple plot.

Shelton is best known for her cozy mystery series, but the Alaska series is a bit harsher, a bit closer to crime.  It's still not bloody or horrific, but this series isn't as light as her cozies; there are no punny titles and no recipes at the end.
Thus, if you like crime novels but feel like something not quite so harsh, this is a good series.  Or, if you like cozies but want to edge a little closer to more realistic crime, this is a good series.

Give Cold Wind a try; you'll like it.