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.