Dead of Winter by P J Parrish

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Dead of Winter by P J Parrish

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: Seeking the solace of anonymity - the cleansing, purging qualities of a fresh start in a new town - Louis Kincaid arrives in Loon Lake, Michigan to join the local police department. What he could not have known is that he would immediately become immersed in the unsolved murder of a fellow police officer and in a web of racial tension and mystery that will bring Kincaid's own career into question, P.J. Parrish delivers a powerful thriller that will keep you guessing right to the very last page.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Pocket Books
ISBN: 978-1847391346

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Loon Lake, Michigan is picture-postcard pretty – an idyll that sits serenely and snugly in the midst of a pine-peppered winter wonderland. Louis Kincaid needs a little serenity in his life and on arrival in Loon Lake he feels almost as if he has come home. Life has not been easy for Kincaid. A troubled, unhappy child of mixed race, passed around various institutions and foster homes, Louis figures that if he is going to put some integrity back into the world, he will need to wear a badge to do it.

In making a start on what he thinks will be a promising career with the Mississipi State Police, Kincaid could never have known just how much things have not really changed in the Deep South for a man like him; for though Louis isn't black, he's not white either. When institutional racism hounds him out of the department, Kincaid leaves town and a series of unsuitable positions with various other city PDs later, Louis sees an ad in the paper and finds himself heading steadily north until he arrives at the waterside, looking out over the frozen town of Loon Lake.

As far away from the sticky, sweltering, heat of the south as he can geographically manage without freezing to death, Kincaid heads straight for the local police department to sign up. He is welcomed warmly and after a fifteen minute interview, the job is his.

But Loon Lake has a problem: two weeks ago, someone murdered a police officer – the man that Louis has replaced on the force – and the killer leaves no clues behind save for a playing card, marked with numbers and a skull. His boss, Chief Gibralter is taking it badly – the department is his life; and when another body shows up in the ice by the lake, this time a retired Loon Lake officer, Kincaid is assigned to head up the task force and find the man that appears to be picking them off, one by one, before it's too late.

I've never read any P.J. Parrish before. I'm not sure Parrish has even been available in the UK until recently (given that Dead of Winter appears to have been published in 2001 in the States) but so far, I am liking what I have seen. In Kincaid, Parrish provides us with an emotionally complex hero who rarely allows his feelings to surface – we can see that Kincaid is tough, but he is not unreachable. Further, the many characters in this tale are each fully present in the moment - they're multi-dimensional and 'taking part'. There is nothing worse than a story full of also-rans, but Parrish has ensured that everyone has a relevant role to play and makes them all equally interesting and available to the reader. With a cast of many, that can be complicated to achieve without causing confusion, but Parrish appears to have pulled it off.

Dead of Winter is not Louis Kincaid's first outing, either – in a perfect world, I would probably like to have read the preceding novel(s) in the series, but having said that, you should know that Dead of Winter stands very ably alone. I'm just one of those people who has to have the story, the whole story and nothing but the story.

In summary, Dead of Winter is a really engaging read and the fact that it is set in 1984, before iPods and almost before CDs, it was a charming trip down a pre-technology memory lane. Dead of Winter also manages to encapsulate all the essential elements of a good crime thriller whilst taking the reader on an especially circuitous route to throw you off the scent and keep you guessing until the final chapter. I have to recommend it to you purely because it's great to have another author in the crime thriller stable!

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag. We also have a review of Paint It Black by P J Parrish.

If you like your police procedurals to be American (I do – I find the British ones a bit gritty and less escapist), you should also take a look at Linda Fairstein's novels, in particular The Bone Vault and maybe also Exposed by Alex Kava though this is more of an FBI 'hunt-you-down' than a cop crime thriller. If not, and you want to stay on UK soil, have a look at The Soul Collector by Paul Johnston, which we really enjoyed.

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