My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reviewed for Amazon under the Amazon Vine Voice Program
Above all else, Sara Henry’s new novel, A Cold and Lonely Place (Crown 2013) beats into the reader how frigid and forlorn Saranac Lake, in Upper state New York, is. My fingers tingle, my nose goes numb, and my eyelashes ice over just thinking about it. The glacial setting is so richly constructed, it becomes the antagonist in the story as characters constantly work around it, involve it, and pay attention to it in everything they do.
Not only does chilly isolation define the setting, these traits catalyze the mystery that drives the plot. Tobin, friend-of-a-friend of Troy Chance, a local citizen who rents rooms out in her oversized house to help pay bills, is found dead, bobbing beneath a frozen lake, no clue whether his death is suicide or murder. Troy is a journalist, usually on call for local events and sport rivalries, but pulled into this story because its national appeal (estranged son of wealthy parents dies in wilderness town) demands thorough coverage by the small local paper. To write the story, she researches, building a picture of who Tobin was and how he ended up in a backwater town rather than the posh resort his upbringing would indicate to be a better fit. She quickly finds out Tobin’s death wasn’t the only mystery about the man.
As she struggles to unravel the clues, she finds herself attacked by unknown assailants who apparently aren’t happy with her involvement.
The story is well-written with multi-dimensional and strongly-drawn characters. Each has ample backstory Henry dribbles out like bread crumbs, enticing readers to follow along and try to untangle why each individual chose to live in a world of snow and ice and few comforts and did any of those reasons lead to Tobin’s death? Every time Troy thinks she understands, something pops up forcing her to dig deeper. Pacing, like excitement in a town where there is little to do besides ski and snowshoe and try to stay warm, is quick enough but not so fast you can’t afford a bathroom break.
I’ll be looking for her next novel (this is her second), though I wouldn’t mind a warmer setting. I still shiver when I think about the book.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.