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The Book of Cold Cases


The Book of Cold Cases

Existing somewhere between a thriller and a ghost story, THE BOOK OF COLD CASES by Simone St. James takes some of the best features of each to produce an entertaining tale that is sure to please all kinds of readers. This atmospheric and readable novel follows true crime blogger Shea Collins as she searches for answers to her hometown’s most violent mystery.

In 1977, in the small town of Claire Lake, Oregon, two men are shot dead. The only real suspect is 23-year-old Beth Greer. Beth is a wealthy recluse who lives alone in the Greer mansion after the death of her parents --- an accident in her mother’s case but a murder in her father’s case. The weapon that was used against her father seems to be the same gun that killed the men. All three were shot in the face and left to die for no apparent reason.

" entertaining and suspenseful novel, a Pacific Northwest gothic of dead ends and dysfunction. This outstanding genre mashup with fantastic female leads is not to be missed."

An eyewitness sees Beth leave the scene of one of the crimes in her distinctive car and with her signature long red hair. While Beth maintains her innocence throughout the investigation and at the eventual trial, both her beauty and her cold affect turn public opinion against her. Even decades after she is acquitted, many in Claire Lake believe that she committed the infamous Lady Killer Murders.

In 2017, Shea is dealing with her own traumatic experiences. The victim of a terrible crime as a young girl and a recent divorcée, she puts most of her effort and energy into her true crime blog. It is not profitable enough to allow her to quit her day job, but it makes enough money that she can hire ex-cop Michael De Vos to help her with some of the site’s investigative work. Shea meets Beth at her medical office job, and Beth unexpectedly invites her to the mansion for an interview. After all this time, Beth seems ready to talk to someone about her family and the murders.

Shea finds the mansion stuck in time. Nothing has been changed or updated since the death of Beth’s mother. It is an eerie space, isolated and dreary, and Shea comes to believe it is haunted. The tap runs with blood, and the cabinet doors open on their own. Plus, Shea captures a voice on her recording, a voice that definitely wants to let her know that she (whoever she is) has no plans to leave the house. Who does the voice belong to? How much does Beth really know about the Lady Killer Murders? And what kind of danger is Shea in if she continues to try to learn the truth about Beth, the unsolved crimes and the goings-on at the mansion?

From the sad and bizarre mansion to the perilous cliffs just beyond it, from the small-town gossip mill to the vastness of the internet, Shea follows leads in pursuit of the truth. She proves herself to be a thoughtful and insightful sleuth with a surprising willingness to take risks. Her own frightening experiences as a crime victim give her some understandable behavioral patterns even if St. James could’ve delved a bit deeper into her psychology. One other area that may gnaw at close readers are the inconsistencies of Claire Lake itself. It is penned as both a small town where everyone knows Beth and her family and one where no one knows them well enough and secrets can remain just barely buried. Still, these minor drawbacks do not distract from the good story St. James is telling.

THE BOOK OF COLD CASES remains an entertaining and suspenseful novel, a Pacific Northwest gothic of dead ends and dysfunction. This outstanding genre mashup with fantastic female leads is not to be missed.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on March 18, 2022

The Book of Cold Cases
by Simone St. James