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Cold As Ice

stone cold heartStone Cold Heart: A Novel by Caz Frear (Harper, $26.99, 328 pages)

Detective Constable Cat Kinsella stars in this, the second British police procedural mystery from author Caz Frear.  For many readers it’s the second novel that’s the true test of a writer’s skill.  Rest assured readers of this genre – fans of writers such as Peter Robinson, Jane Casey, and Peter James – I could go on.  Ms. Frear has another success in Stone Cold Heart.  After reading this novel, I’m looking forward to reading the first in the series, Sweet Little Lies.

Predictably, the opening page features a stream of consciousness statement from an unknown person.  The requisite references to killing and death are assurances that this read will not be tame or boring.  DC Kinsella begins her narrative in August 2017 with a rather ordinary trip to a coffee shop.  Well, the coffee is not ordinary nor is the barista.

Fast forward to November of the same year, a Tuesday to be specific.  We’re introduced to Luigi Parnell, Kinsella’s partner, as well as their boss, Detective Inspector Kate Steele.  Murder Investigation Team 4, as they are called, is considering a scene with a 22-year-old murder victim, Naomi Lockhart.  Kinsella’s remembrance of past visits to this neighborhood is a head’s up to the reader that there will be a blend of her past and the present.  She encounters many triggers to her memory during the tale.

Author Frear provides the usual banter among the members of the MIT4.  Moreover, throughout the book she takes time to thoughtfully describe the various aspects of each scene and the thoughts and actions of her characters.  Perhaps it is the cinematic feel of her writing that sets these characters and their profession apart from an ordinary British police mystery.  In fact, the DC Kinsella novels are now being made into a television series.

The underlying issues that move the story forward are trust and truth.  As one would expect, the tale is advanced as MIT4 searches for the answer to the age old question, who done it?

stone cold heart two

The book is highly recommended for mystery/thriller readers and especially those who are dedicated readers of British police procedurals featuring a female detective as the main character.

Ruta Arellano

Stone Cold Heart was published on July 2, 2019.  A review copy was received from the publisher.

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We Won’t Get Fooled Again

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: A Novel by Don Bruns (Oceanview Publishing; $25.95; 312 pages)

If you enjoy watching the television series Psych on the USA Network, you’re in for a similar experience reading Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.   As with Psych, there are two buddies who are most likely under the age of thirty and who insist on having a career of their own making, namely private investigation.   Since More or Less Investigations has only recently qualified for a Florida private investigation license, and neither Skip Moore nor James Lessor [get it – more or lesser?] really knows how to conduct a professional investigation, it comes as no surprise that the fellows are ripe for some hilarious results when they begin sleuthing.

The setting for this humorous mystery novel is a second-rate carnival in South Florida where the number of serious mishaps has been increasing over the past year, enough so that the carnival owners are becoming paranoid.   James takes a job as the marketing director as a cover for investigating behind the scenes.   He convinces Skip, who actually has a “real” job selling home security systems, to spend the weekend at the carnival in the hope of figuring out just who is behind all the trouble.   James has been promised a couple of thousand dollars by Moe, the carnival operator, if he solves the mystery of who is behind the sabotage.

 The humor and antics are portrayed in a somewhat haphazard way that comes off as a bit of raw writing.   There are some abrupt plot turns that are not necessarily easy to follow.   Given the nature of the two main characters who are obviously unsure of where they are going with the investigation, the plot has to be disjointed.   James and Skip are hoping to make as much money as possible without getting hurt by the person or persons behind the carnival accidents, one of which ended in the death of a person on an amusement ride that failed.

The rest of the characters are pretty much as expected, a beautiful girl, a dwarf with a petting zoo and a bunch of carny workers.   Bruns does an admirable job setting the scenes for the action.   The dust and noise associated with a carnival are there along with the quirky outsider attitudes that seem to be required for a life lived from one shopping center parking lot to another.   The book has a cinema verite quality that enhances a somewhat thin plot.   But then, what else would a reader expect from a book titled, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff?

“We wandered through the show, watching carnies weave their magic, selling cotton candy, drawing a sparse crowd to the dart booth, pulling a senior couple to the Ferris wheel, and tantalizing customers with the smell of greasy meat, popcorn, and deep-fried elephant ears.”

Well recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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