STARRED REVIEW
December 08, 2020

Two haunting small-town mysteries

These suspense-filled novels may have uncannily similar concepts, but they are uniquely thrilling in their executions.
STARRED REVIEW
December 08, 2020

Two haunting small-town mysteries

These suspense-filled novels may have uncannily similar concepts, but they are uniquely thrilling in their executions.
December 08, 2020

Two haunting small-town mysteries

These suspense-filled novels may have uncannily similar concepts, but they are uniquely thrilling in their executions.
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The lead characters in Tessa Wegert’s The Dead Season and Paige Shelton’s Cold Wind are haunted by past traumas—men who forcibly held them against their will and mercilessly tormented them before their escape—and are facing new mysteries that require their unique set of skills. These suspense-filled novels may have uncannily similar concepts, but they are uniquely thrilling in their executions.

In The Dead Season, Shana “Shay” Merchant’s role as sheriff’s investigator is on temporary hold as she deals with the psychological ramifications of her previous ordeal, chronicled in the first book of the series, Death in the Family. But with a psych evaluation only days away and a pair of new mysteries begging to be solved, Shay is determined to prove she is still capable of doing the job.

She has the added fortune of her own personal mentor—affectionately nicknamed “Sensei Sam”—helping with her self-defense skills and getting her mind right. But while his lessons are helpful (and entertaining for the reader), Shay believes that staying busy with new cases will be more than enough to work through her trauma.

One of Shay’s cases involves the discovery of her long-lost uncle’s body in a remote forest near her hometown of Scranton, Vermont. Missing for 20 years, the remains show evidence of blunt force trauma to the back of the head, meaning he was likely murdered. But while Shay interviews possible suspects for clues, including estranged family members, a young boy goes missing in her new home in New York’s Thousand Islands. A cryptic note on the boy’s bloody hat seems to link both cases together and point to Shay’s cousin, Abe, as being the same man who kidnapped her a year ago, whom she knew as Blake Bram. Even as she relives her childhood memories with her cousin, Shay insists she’s not hunting or obsessing over Bram: “Bram is hunting me.” A confrontation between the two builds toward a thrilling crescendo.

Cold Wind, meanwhile, takes readers to the remote Alaskan wilderness where novelist Elizabeth Fairchild has started a new life as Beth Rivers, safe from the reaches of the obsessed fan who kidnapped her in St. Louis. Or so she thinks.

The sequel to last year’s Thin Ice, Cold Wind picks up shortly after its predecessor with Beth acclimating to life in Benedict, Alaska, where she serves as the town’s only journalist. When a pair of young girls are found, followed by the discovery of a frozen body at a remote cabin after a mudslide, Beth becomes obsessed with finding out the truth of what happened. Thanks to a highly cooperative police department, she’s able to quickly insert herself into the investigations.

While the interactions between the quirky characters of the community provides some lighthearted moments, Shelton, who is best known for her cozy mystery series, proves she is more than capable of crafting a darker, more mature tone.

The Dead Season and Cold Wind are both the sophomore efforts in their series. Reading the predecessors would be helpful but isn’t necessary, as both Wegert and Shelton ably weave backstory in where needed, while letting the chills and thrills flow freely.

Get the Books

The Dead Season

The Dead Season

By Tessa Wegert
Berkley
ISBN 9780593097915
Cold Wind

Cold Wind

By C.J. Box
Putnam
ISBN 9780399157356

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