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by Joseph Olshan
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Superbly crafted almost poetic novel with expertly fleshed out characters and a great third act twist. A slow burn novel of suspense that doesn't disappoint. Definitely recommended. ( )
“Fresh Meat” by Leigh Neely for Criminal Element
When a walk during the spring thaw reveals a frozen body, remote Cloudland becomes the focus of a murder investigation with Catherine Winslow in the middle of it. A former investigative journalist, Catherine is now a recluse who writes a syndicated column with recipes, household hints, and folk remedies. Her simple life becomes complicated when she realizes the body of the young woman resting against a tree in her field is a missing nurse suspected to be a serial killer’s victim.
Catherine’s neighbors soon become suspects in the case and she feels guilty because the murderer brought his taint to her neighborhood. Her investigative instincts kick in when her neighbor, a forensic psychiatrist who has been hired as a consultant, asks her to be a sounding board for his findings. While all this is going on, she’s trying to reconnect with her estranged daughter whose battle with anorexia almost killed them both, and trying to avoid a former student who was her much-younger lover and the reason she lost her job at a nearby college.
This is a beautifully written, well-crafted novel. I couldn’t believe I’d reached the last page and I desperately wanted to see what happened in Catherine’s life once the murder was solved. This is both a literate and suspenseful book that gives you all kinds of clues and answers but still surprises in the end.
Read the rest at: http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2012/03/cloudland-by-joseph-olshan-literary...
Catherine Winslow discovers a body frozen in the snow, and so begins what is a "crime novel" roughly based on an unsolved series of murders in the Connecticut River Valley reported Phillip Ginsberg in Shadow of Death 1993, and reformulated by Olshan into this novel. Slow reading and the characters are mostly unlikeable. Not a bad ending.
Nurse Angela Parker vanished during a January Vermont blizzard on her way home from a ski trip. She had called her husband from a rest stop on the interstate to say she would be home soon. She never arrived. Months later in rural Vermont newspaper columnist Catherine Winslow, out for a walk on a March afternoon, found her body posed in the melting snow near a fallen tree. Angela had been strangled, stabbed, then buried in the fresh snow, probably shortly after she spoke to her husband. Like several similar recent victims in the Connecticut Valley, she had some disturbing religious tracts stuffed in her pocket.
Catherine had been an investigative journalist in New York until she left after a disagreement with an editor. She moved to Vermont with her teenage daughter and taught literature in a local college, a job she lost after the administration received several anonymous letters documenting her affair with a student. She finally found her calling as the author of a nationally syndicated Household Hints columnist.
Her daughter has moved out, so Catherine now lives alone with a pair of dogs and her bad-tempered house pig, Henrietta. There are only three occupied houses up on Cloudland, and her neighbor Anthony, a psychiatrist, is called in to consult on the apparent serial murders. When Catherine notes the similarity of the staged victims with the religious tracts to those in a very obscure unfinished novel by Wilkie Collins, both the detective and Anthony involve her directly in the investigation. Huh? While Catherine owns one of the very few copies of the Collins novel, she has lent it out to a number of different people over the years.
It took me three tries to finally finish this book. Catherine as first person narrator annoyed me terrifically; despite her extensive back story she never came alive for me. She remains a narcissistic middle-aged woman who lies to herself and others and makes unfortunate life choices. The willingness of the police investigator to involve her in the investigation of the case didn't make sense for most of the book. And, unusually for me, I had figured out the killer well before the book ended. While the author's descriptions of the setting were lovely, living inside Catherine's head for the length of this rather disorganized book was not a pleasant thing.
Note: I received a free review copy of this book.
CLOUDLAND is set in the bleak Upper Connecticut River Valley that forms the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, a place where spring doesn’t arrive until it’s summer. Catherine Winslow, whose intimate narrative voice keeps directing our eyes to the beauty of this stark landscape, is taking a walk when she comes upon the half-frozen body of a woman in a pink parka, strangled and stabbed and left beneath an apple tree to spend the past winter under a blanket of snow. Olshan handles some genre conventions clumsily. Although the victim is the sixth woman in two years found murdered in the same fashion, the police investigation is undermanned and sloppily managed. It’s also implausible that both the lead detective and the consulting forensic psychiatrist, who just happens to live up the road from Catherine, would use her as a sounding board. But the shaky mechanics don’t matter so much once Olshan gets down to the real business of observing the destructive impact the killings have on this isolated region.
Discovering the body of a serial killer's latest victim near her home in Vermont's Upper Valley, Catherine Winslow, a former reporter for a national newspaper, teams up with a forensic psychologist to investigate the killings.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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An edition of this book was published by Minotaur Books.