Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Cold Cold Heart

Summary: Dana Nolan was a promising young TV reporter until a notorious serial killer tried to add her to his list of victims. Nearly a year has passed since surviving her ordeal, but the physical, emotional, and psychological scars run deep. Struggling with the torment of post-traumatic stress syndrome, plagued by flashbacks and nightmares as dark as the heart of a killer, Dana returns to her hometown in an attempt to begin to put her life back together. But home doesn’t provide the comfort she expects.

Dana’s harrowing story and her return to small town life have rekindled police and media interest in the unsolved case of her childhood best friend, Casey Grant, who disappeared without a trace the summer after their graduation from high school. Terrified of truths long-buried, Dana reluctantly begins to look back at her past. Viewed through the dark filter of PTSD, old friends and loved ones become suspects and enemies. Questioning everything she knows, refusing to be defined by the traumas of her past and struggling against excruciating odds, Dana seeks out a truth that may prove too terrible to be believed… -- Dutton

Recently, I've been in a bit of a reading slump; however, I've found that psychological thrillers seem to be doing the trick. I've always been drawn to mysteries (hence Mystery  Mondays), but I am really appreciated "smart" mysteries especially if they deal with the human psyche.  COLD COLD HEART by Tami Hoag definitely worked for me on all levels!

COLD COLD HEART tells the story of Dana Nolan, a television reporter who was kidnapped by a serial killer. Fortunately, Dana was able to survive his brutal attacks and eventually escape; however, a year later, she's still trying to recover from the traumatic experience. She has returned home to live with her mother and stepfather, and she's doing her best to handle post-traumatic stress syndrome. Not only is she experiencing flashbacks and nightmares from her time with the serial killer, but she's also trying to deal with the memories from the loss of her childhood best friend Casey Grant. Casey went missing right after graduation, and Dana begins to wonder if the very same serial killer was responsible for Dana's disappearance. Coincidence or not?

As Dana tries to put the pieces of her life together, she begins to reexamine her teenage years. Her memory isn't exactly sharp considering everything she's been through; and as a result, she begins to wonder about the roles of her family and friends in Dana's disappearance. She begins her own investigation into Dana's last few days but has many setbacks as her brain struggles to make sense of the present and the past. Can Dana uncover the truth about the mystery of Casey while also keeping everything together in her life?

COLD COLD HEART was a strong literary thriller that I enjoyed quite a bit. It pretty much encompassed everything I've come to appreciate about a Tami Hoag novel. The characters were complex, the mystery was intriguing, and the conclusion was satisfying. Overall, it was an outstanding read.

I should probably mention that COLD COLD HEART was a bit long for me, coming in at almost 450 pages. The beginning of the novel was a little slow for me; however, it quickly ratcheted up and was quite the ride. The first 100 pages or so of the novel were more like an exploration of post-traumatic stress syndrome and the effects it has on a person's brain, which were definitely interesting in their own right. But personally, I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the story where the author combined Dana's investigation with the recovery (and misfires) of her brain.

One very special thing about COLD COLD HEART was how well Ms. Hoag portrayed a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress syndrome. It was apparent that she researched the heck out of these subjects and then was able to incorporate them into the characters in this novel. There is no doubt that the brain in an amazing part of our bodies, and the way it recovers (and doesn't recover) is fascinating.

Another really strong aspect of COLD COLD HEART were the characters. Naturally, Dana was an intriguing person, but so were some of the supporting cast like her stepfather/politician and his campaign manager, her mother, her ex-boyfriend turned town cop, and more. I especially appreciated how dark some of the characters were... especially the retired cop who initially investigated Casey's disappearance. This interesting mix of characters definitely added to the flavor of the story, but they also incorporated quite a bit of suspects into the picture.

Finally, I enjoyed the mysteries in this novel. While the conclusion was most definitely satisfying, the author took me on quite the ride to get there. There were numerous twists and turns, and quite honestly, I wasn't sure who I could trust. Because Dana was still recovering from her traumatic past, he thought processes weren't exactly reliable; and this angle of the story made it even more interesting.

COLD COLD HEART was a thought-provoking novel, not only because it was a complex mystery but also because it delved into the way a damaged brain works. I was happy to discover that there is a reading guide available with 15 questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include post-traumatic stress syndrome, brain damage, memory, guilt, victims, instincts, father/child dynamics, friendship, betrayal, trust, and recovery.

COLD COLD HEART is a smart psychological thriller. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Kay said...

I've enjoyed several other books by Tami Hoag and have had this one in my stack. Good to know that it works well and I appreciate the discussion of PTSD. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Kay said...
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bermudaonion said...

I've always loved thrillers but haven't read too many lately, I'm sad to say. I've never read any of Hoag's but this one sure does sound good!