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A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry
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A Cold and Lonely Place (2013)

by Sara J. Henry

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Member:natcar
Title:A Cold and Lonely Place
Authors:Sara J. Henry
Info:Crown (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
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A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry (2013)

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By Sara J. Henry
Broadway/Crown/Random House, 294 pgs
978-0-307-71843-3
Submitted by Crown Publishing Group
Rating: 3.5

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - Ian MacLaren (Rev. John Watson)

It is winter in Lake Placid, New York, the Adirondacks, and so bitterly bone-numbingly cold that your eyelashes will freeze if you stay out for any length of time, say, three minutes. Winter is a character here, imposing itself on everyone and everything. It must be respected. (I have a dear friend who contends that hell is actually cold.) The land, the Adirondacks, is also a character, integral to the plot. Troy Chance, freelance journalist, is covering the construction of the annual Winter Carnival ice palace for the local newspaper. This entails lots of men and heavy equipment and gigantic blocks of ice. They dig these ice blocks out of Saranac Lake to construct the ice palace. All is going according to plan until they find that one of the ice blocks they dig up contains the body of Tobin Winslow, a newly-arrived-in-town mystery man.

Troy knew Tobin; he dated Jessamyn, one of Troy's (Troy is a she) housemates. Tobin has been missing for weeks and everyone assumed he had just blown out of town the same way he blew in. There are no visible injuries to the body and no obvious cause of death. Is it murder, suicide or accident? And if the death was not murder then where is Tobin's truck? Jessamyn, of course, is suspected early on because she's the girlfriend. Troy herself is questioned as a housemate of the dead man's girlfriend. And no, she didn't like Tobin at all. She considered him little more than a frat boy slumming it, for reasons of his own, in an insular hard-scrabble mountain town.

Troy's editor at the paper asks her to write a series of articles on Tobin's life. She reluctantly agrees and as soon as she begins researching and asking questions a hornet's nest buzzes to furious life. In short order there are: hang-up calls in the middle of the night, threatening emails and notes, someone lets the air out of her tires, someone breaks into Tobin's cabin and ransacks the place. The further Troy probes the murkier the story becomes. Then Tobin's sister Win arrives in Lake Placid, drawn by the articles Troy has written. The two quickly form a dynamic duo to find out what happened to Tobin Winslow.

There are no spoilers here. Suffice it to say that the secrets uncovered among family and friends of the deceased are potent enough to scramble your brain and require years of therapy. Page 195 is a whopper, I'm telling you. The metaphor is keys. Keys figure prominently. Tobin's keys are missing. He kept a key under a flowerpot on his porch and who knew it was there? Turns out there's a safe deposit box but where is the key to it? No one locks their doors in this neck of the Adirondacks but they begin to do so before this story is finished.

Problems first, get them out of the way, there are only a couple. First, there is a subplot involving Jessamyn and her long-lost father that struck me as a distraction. I wanted to swat it like a housefly. Second, the last chapter should've been titled "Epilogue." Each character is addressed in his or her own paragraph or two, telling you exactly what happened to everyone involved, laid out for us as if we were middle-schoolers. I could visualize the big red bow tied around the story. But those are minor stumbles, really.

A Cold and Lonely Place is a good mystery. It is not a thriller; there's no gore; and it's not particularly suspenseful, at least not in the way we've come to understand the term in the time of James Patterson, et al. I don't recall even the suggestion of blood. This novel doesn't need the special effects department; it reminded me strongly of Agatha Christie. Then I discovered that the author's first book won the Agatha Award. Troy Chance is an intriguing character. You don't find many female leads who are flawed and fiercely independent and are allowed to remain so, with no man coming along by the end of the book to melt their defenses, blah blah blah, and everything goes gooey. No thank you. There's no extraneous love story harnessed to the works and do you KNOW what a relief that is? Instead of improbable romantic entanglements we get to feast on authentic female friendships. Troy remains stubbornly in character throughout the novel, triumphantly imperfect, taking whatever lumps come her way as a result. We don't even know what Troy looks like. Read that again. Here: WE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT TROY LOOKS LIKE. The freedom is heady, yes?

The plot is well paced. It begins with a bang on page one with the discovery of the body. There are no lulls here but do not expect the story to get in your face or scream at you. It follows you around and whispers, makes suggestions; maybe prods you in the ribs with a finger. The story accrues. If you are patient it will reward you. A Cold and Lonely Place is the second book in Sara J. Henry's series starring journalist Troy Chance, following the Agatha Award-winning debut Learning to Swim. I'm gonna go to the library now and pick up the first book.

And I have exciting news about this one! The lovely folks at Crown have provided me with five copies to give away. Come back tomorrow and found out how to win a copy for yourself or to give as a holiday gift. ( )
  TexasBookLover | Dec 2, 2013 |
Set in remote and chilly upstate New York, this is the story of a small town reporter, Troy Chance (she's a woman), whose roommate's boyfriend's body is found under the ice of a frozen lake. Troy barely knew Tobin who had only recently moved to the area - and didn't particularly like him - but she is given the unlikely assignment of writing a series of articles profiling him, his upbringing, life and eventual death. As she investigates, she will get to know both her roommate and Tobin's family better, and uncover some tightly held family secrets. She will also eventually uncover the truth about Tobin's death.

This is a mystery of sorts, but it's a very slowly developing one and I found it quite irritating. There is just so much extraneous detail! It's not enough for her to buy something in Canada, we have to be told that she had obtained Canadian money to allow her to do this. We have to be told the details of every meal, the make of car that everyone drives, have thought processes spelled out in detail. It makes the book feel sluggish. Moreover, I actively disliked the main character (and narrator), which isn't automatically a deal breaker but it does make it harder to enjoy a book.

On the positive front, the book is rich in atmosphere - you feel cold reading it! And I liked the fact that the story doesn't throw in any silly melodramatic twists just for the sake of it. It feels plausible.

This is actually a sequel to the author's first book, Learning to Swim, which I haven't read. The events from that book are referred to but this works well as a standalone story. ( )
1 vote julia.flyte | Jun 23, 2013 |
The second of Henry's Troy Chance novels, in which Troy gets a shot at making her name as an investigative journalist. She's called upon to investigate the death of a young man she knew who was found frozen in a lake.

The investigation into the cause of the man's death itself causes other events to transpire. Human existence is a complicated affair, and isn't always wrapped up in a neat package like a whodunit.

This non-traditional mystery series is shaping up to be a thoughtful take on human connections. I await the next installment. ( )
  EricKibler | Apr 5, 2013 |
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

"A Cold and Lonely Place is the second book set in upstate New York that I’ve read in the last month, and I really liked it. Troy Chance is a freelance writer, formerly a sports reporter, living in Lake Placid, New York, a winter sports and tourist mecca. This particular investigation is into the freezing death of Tobin Winslow, an out-of-towner who dated one of Troy’s housemates. He is found frozen beneath a lake as a group is assembling the ice palace for the town’s annual Winter Carnival. It’s a harrowing scene, and it begins a harrowing investigation into a not-too-savory character. Troy writes a series of articles about Tobin, which is very different than reading about police officers investigating his death.

The strength of the story is how Troy humanizes the deceased Tobin. In lots of crime novels, it seems the criminals are the center of the story instead of the victims. As much of a loner as Troy is (she’s not from Lake Placid, she lives far from her family and people she cares about), she does grow closer to people during the course of the investigation as well as to Tobin, a person she didn’t know well while she was alive.

One minor quibble I have with the book is the large number of friends and relatives Troy has whom she uses as sounding boards during the course of the investigation. Those characters– her brother the police officer, a friend in the area, a police officer in Ottawa– are not very developed, but they may have been more developed in the first book of the series. In this book, she mostly contacts them by email or with brief visits, which is not enough time for me to really get to know them.

A Cold and Lonely Place is not a fast-paced or overly creepy thriller, and that’s exactly the kind of book I’m in the mood for. The characters at the center of the story, including the deceased Tobin, are interesting people in an interesting setting. I’ll definitely be checking out the first book in the series, Learning to Swim." ( )
  rkreish | Mar 31, 2013 |
This is the second book featuring Lake Placid freelance journalist Troy Chance (after Learning to Swim). The first book was an action-y mystery book while this one is more character focused with a little less tension. There is still a mystery--what happened to Tobin, the man who was found in the lake while workers were cutting ice blocks to prepare for the ice palace--but it is more of a "what happened" than a "who did this". The author does a great job introducing and developing the characters from the town along with the Lake Placid setting. Having Troy Chance assigned to write stories about Tobin after some unfortunate events in town was well done. I would definitely pick up another Troy Chance book in the future. ( )
  walterqchocobo | Mar 13, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Ice can assume a large number of different crystalline structures, more than any other known material.
Dedication
To Reed Farrel Coleman
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We could feel the reverberation of the ice-cutting machine through the frozen lake beneath our feet.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Freelance writer Troy Chance is snapping photos of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival ice palace when the ice-cutting machine falls silent. Encased in the ice is the shadowy outline of a body--a man she knows. One of her roommates falls under suspicion, and the media descends. Troy's assigned to write an in-depth feature on the dead man, who, it turns out, was the privileged son of a wealthy Connecticut family who had been playing at a blue collar life in this Adirondack village. And the deeper Troy digs into his life and mysterious death, the murkier things become. After the victim's sister comes to town and a string of disturbing incidents unfold, it's clear someone doesn't want the investigation to continue. Troy doesn't know who to trust" -- Cover verso.… (more)

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