Ice Shear, by M.P. Cooley

Ice Shear, by M.P. Cooley
Publisher: William Morrow
ISBN: 0062300709
320 pages, hardcover
Expected Publication: 22nd July 2014
Source: Goodreads First-Reads

This is a very impressive debut genre novel that I didn’t expect to enjoy quite so much. My initial expectations were somewhat low because so many of the elements of “Ice Shear” I would describe with the word ‘average’. The plot is suitably complex. The writing is straight-forward, though very descriptive, with realistically rendered dialogue. The protagonist seems like a regular woman. The pace is constant and the small town setting is well-rendered.

Together this makes an enjoyable police procedural read, a novel that is really good, but where nothing really screams out as being exceptionally unique, innovative, controversial, or profoundly insightful. So what sets it apart from any other mystery novel out there is it is so ‘average’? Why in my heart do I feel like this is a really successful novel that was well-worth reading?

I think the answer to those questions lie in just how effectively Cooley manages to take the ordinary and produce a tight, well-crafted mystery out of it where everything does feel satisfying without becoming dull and mundane. Most impressive to me is Cooley’s protagonist June, a former FBI-agent returned to her hometown to serve on the police force. June is deceptively simple, one of the most realistically rendered female characters I’ve come across. Here strengths and weakness are given subtly, and her personality is one of straight-forward perseverance, simply being a good investigator and human being. Relatable and likable, she is flawed and challenged, but she overcomes and the reader enjoys the experience of seeing how she does so.

Cooley also manages to put in just the right amount of ‘outside’ information and personal conflict outside of the main crime plot thread. You learn a bit about June’s past and her family and professional relationships, but readers aren’t pulled too far down any side-tracks that don’t have bearings on the novel itself. This leaves Cooley room to further develop the character in future novels, hopefully just as effectively.

Four Stars out of Five

Snowblind, by Christopher Golden

Snowblind, by Christopher Golden
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
320 pages, Kindle Edition
Published January  2014
Source: NetGalley

There are aspects of “Snowblind” that make for fantastic horror. Chief among them is Golden’s talent for establishing mood, writing a novel that overall exudes creepiness, accentuating the horror that can easily greet those who step outside in the long dark of winter nights in the chilled air of falling snow. This kind of mood dominates the first portion of the novel, and Golden contrasts the chill of winter with a sort of general warmth and hopefulness in the air of relationships among his characters, a broad cast encompassing several townspeople. I enjoyed the first half of the novel and the slow building towards horror, a horror where the weather seems to take on a sinister life of its own.

However, as with many horrors, the eventual reveal of its nature comes off as far less spooky than the mind may have imagined, and in this case, even a bit melodramatic, leading up to an ending that doesn’t fulfill that promise of the early pages. I know Golden has written media-tie-in stories, and that background shows strongly in the final pages of “Snowblind” where the plot becomes increasingly reminiscent of a network television show, with less darkness and horror and more feel-good wrap up of the more sympathetic characters.

If you are a fan of horror, this could be a worthwhile winter’s night read that will heighten the affect of the novel’s pervasive mood. I imagine many readers won’t be as disappointed with the novel’s close as I, and I admit that even with that ultimate disappointment at the end that I did enjoy the overall creepy journey.

Three Stars out of Five