CATCH YOUR DEATH by Lissa Marie Redmond

Catch Your Death
(Cold Case Investigation #6)
By Lissa Marie Redmond
Severn House — 2nd August 2022
ISBN: 9780727891327
— Hardcover — 240 pp.


Cold Case Detective Lauren Riley and her partner Shane Reese are enjoying lunch at a restaurant after following up on a tip about an old mafia hit received by their department in the Buffalo, NY police. The tip seems to be another dead end; the woman they had gone to question would only tell them that sometimes, it’s best to let the past die.

Those words take on added meaning for the partners when Reese runs into an old high school friend, Chris Sloane, at the restaurant. Chris is opening a new luxury spa/hotel in the ski country south of the city, and wants to use that as an opportunity for a reunion of their high school friend group. He politely invites Lauren to come along for a fully comped experience.

These circumstances force Shane to reveal to his partner a dark moment from his past, painful memories of an unsolved murder that this reunion will surely drag up. Seventeen years ago their high school friend Jessica Toakese was found murdered, her body recovered from the Buffalo river within an industrial, working class neighborhood that now is the site of trendy bars and canal-side leisure. Reese, along all the other friends in the group, had been suspects in the investigation, an investigation that never led to any charges. The friends haven’t seen much of one another since. Since joining the Cold Case squad, Reese has looked into the official records himself, trying to find answers and resolution.

Upset that her trusted partner has kept this history (and a secretive personal crusade) hidden from her, Riley insists Shane takes a step away from the case, and allow her to take a fresh look into things, an exercise that could be aided by her opportunity to meet all the people involved all those years ago during the upcoming reunion at the spa.

However, once at the hotel, things quickly get out of Lauren’s control. Catch up chat among the former friends erupts into drunken chaos. One of them, a true-crime enthusiast named Erica, announces that she has figured out who actually killed Jessica, and promises to reveal all in a recording of her podcast the next day.

The next morning, Erica is found dead in her room, her throat slashed. An overnight blizzard continues to rage outside, trapping the guests inside the hotel, stranding thousands on roads and highways within the snow-belt, and preventing emergency services from getting to the murder scene.

Riley is left on her own, in unconventional circumstances, to try to take charge of the scene, separate witnesses, protect the integrity of any evidence, and stop further violence from occurring. And maybe, amid all that, she can identify and catch a killer.

Whether you have kept up with all of Redmond’s Cold Case Investigation novels, have sampled a few, or haven’t read one yet, Catch Your Death is a fine opportunity to jump into the series or enjoy a murder mystery/police procedural as a stand-alone.

I previously reviewed the second novel from the series, The Murder Book, after getting a copy at an author signing at a local book store. Though I never put up reviews, I went back to read the first novel, and then also bought and read the third. I also happened to pick up and read The Secrets They Left Behind, a fully stand-alone mystery novel outside Redmond’s Cold Case Investigation series. I actually didn’t know there had been further books in that series until happening upon Catch Your Death while browsing NetGalley. I immediately jumped on it to request. I wish someone would have told me of the last two novels in the series, now I’ll have to go back and find those.

All this is simply to say that I really enjoy Redmond’s writing. Her characters, her plot, and her prose are all superbly engaging. Even with that being said, Catch Your Death also happens to be the best I’ve read from her. Each of her novels has been entertaining and worth the read, particularly for a mystery or police procedural fan. For residents of Western New York like myself, there is added appreciation found in these by reading about local details. But, for someone outside of the area, the Cold Case Investigation novels might lack that special something to set them apart from other police procedurals.

Catch Your Death has that special something, though, a fullness and balance beyond what could be found in the earlier novels of the series. Firstly, this is not just a modern procedural, it is also a classic styled murder mystery, like an Agatha Christie set in some isolated manor house. Redmond achieves this with a modern setting by taking advantage of her Buffalo snow belt winter setting. The region has frequently been hit by surprise blizzards of snow and ice that bring life to a stand-still, cutting people off from travel, stranding people on the road, at home, at work, etc. Redmond’s use of this for the plot in Catch Your Death is not remotely a contrivance, it’s realistic and brilliant.

Pulling off a classic-feeling, cosy ‘locked room’ murder mystery in the modern age is one thing, but Redmond adds other elements to this to make it even richer. Just as the isolation of the pandemic forced us to connect experimentally in virtual ways, so too does the situation of Catch Your Death force Lauren Riley to virtually connect with other police authorities in reporting the murder and managing things ‘by the book’ in the aftermath. It’s a murder investigation done remotely, with Riley Facetiming the state police who can’t physically get on site. Redmond’s expertise and previous professional experience as a cold case detective in Buffalo comes into play here as she also demonstrates all the hoops Riley must jump through during her taking charge of the scene and subsequent investigation to ensure that everything is done legally, in ways that won’t compromise evidence or negate confessions. After all, it’s not as easy as something like Murder, She Wrote makes it seem.

Beyond the excellent mashup of procedural with classic murder mystery, Redmond also succeeds with Catch Your Death in bringing the setting fully alive with chilled weather that almost becomes a character of antagonism in and of itself, a force for Lauren to overcome. She also handles the cast of characters well, showcasing the petty bickering, jealousies, and hostilities that can be dredged up by a tragedy, and years without resolution or justice.

Finally, even with all these elements helping the novel succeed on its own terms, Redmond also uses it to nicely advance the overarching plot threads of the series, most notably the relationship between Riley and Reece. I like and prefer it being a platonic relationship rather than one of romance, but it’ll be interesting to see where things go next to take the series in new directions and new possibilities. (After going back to see what I missed in the last novels!)

Mystery fans should really enjoy the frigid temperatures and fiery emotions that Catch Your Death has to offer. It’s a well-rounded homage to the genre that still innovates, it’s a page-turner with a lot of psychological depth of character underneath. If Redmond or Severn Press reads this, please don’t let me miss out on the next.


SECRET PLACES OF WESTERN NEW YORK: 25 SCENIC HIKES by Bruce Kershner, Jennifer Hillman, and William McKeever

Secret Places of Western New York: 25 Scenic Hikes
By Bruce Kershner, Jennifer Hillman, and William McKeever
Ready Press — April 2022
ISBN: 9781681063683
— Paperback — 192 pp.


In the early 1990s, Bruce Kershner wrote and published Secret Places: Scenic Treasures of Western New York and Southern Ontario, a well-regarded and influential book in the local environmental/nature scene. As an educator and ecologist specializing in old-growth forests, Kershner passionately advocated for land conservation and environmental activism, as well as the general appreciation of, and participation in, natural spaces.

Outdoor enthusiasts enjoyed this hiking and discovery guidebook for years. However, with the passage of time the information within became outdated, and the text soon fell out-of-print and increasingly difficult to find. Though Kershner kept extensive notes and thoughts on an eventual update, his death in 2007 from a battle with cancer prevented the fruition of any updated volume.

Kershner’s legacy, influence, and inspiration has lasted long after his death. Numerous sites are still available for people to enjoy, protected, because of his pioneering research and advocacy. This includes Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve, which is dear to me as a site to enjoy the outdoors, but also because I serve on the board for the Friends of Reinstein Woods non-profit group, which partners with the DEC employees who oversee the preserve. It’s also the site of one of Kershner’s 25 scenic hikes.

Another offshoot from Kershner’s legacy are Jennifer Hillman and William McKeever, two academics and nature lovers who became spouses through their shared interests, and shared that connected by hiking through all twenty-five sites in Kershner’s guidebook. Through connections with environmental/ecological groups, Hillman and McKeever eventually came into contact with the Kershner family, specifically Bruce’s wife Helene and their daughter Libby. Conversations led to the development of this update to Kershner’s original book, with Hillman and McKeever’s complete access to all of Kershner’s notes and materials.

The updated guide narrows the geographical focus down to the Western New York region, removing sites in Ontario to allow inclusion of new featured sites in WNY. With their photographer, Courtney Grim, Hillman and McKeever visited all the sites that would be retained to compare against the original text and Kershner’s notes. They completely rewrote information to match updated realities and changed landscapes. For instance, some sites referenced caves that the pair were no longer able to find based on Kershner’s maps and details.

The locales encompassed within the WNY region are: Niagara Falls and its proximity, Erie County (with Buffalo), the Rochester area, Zoar Valley and Cattaraugus County, and the Allegany to Dunkirk region. Each of the twenty-five sites that fall within these areas is featured in chapters that describe unique features to the landscape (or points of interest), a description of possible hiking activities, information for planning a visit, and a spot to take notes. Fabulous colored photos and hand-drawn maps of features break up the text. These maps (most, if not all, by Kershner) are a tremendous resource, in some cases the only known maps in existence for areas with ecological and geological details.

The start of each section includes vital summary information including GPS coordinates, key features, hike distances, and level of hike difficulty. Most all of the 25 hike locations fall into the easy to moderate scale of difficulty, though some more challenging also exist. In addition to specifying who manages the land and where more detailed trail maps can be obtained, each site entry also has extremely helpful usage icons. One set of four possible icons denote the seasons during which the hikes may be safely accessed. Another 28 different usage icons (with key at the start of the book) provide information on things like restroom availability, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, nature centers, family friendliness, etc. Most meaningfully to Kershner’s memory, there is also a usage icon for old-growth forests, which I’ll be enjoying again very soon at Reinstein Woods.

If you happen to live near WNY, know someone there, or plan a vacation to the area, grab this book and head outside to discover nature within one of these 25 gorgeous “Secret Places.” And let’s continue protecting them for the future to enjoy as well.