Monday, June 27, 2022

Review: The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

by Simone St. James
Release Date: March 15, 2022
2022 Berkley
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0440000211
Audiobook: B098YCW26K
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

2 / 5 Stars

In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect--a rich, eccentric twenty-three-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017. Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases--a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea's surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth's mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she's not looking, and she could swear she's seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn't right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?
My Thoughts
The Book of Cold Cases is one of those books to which I approached with a bit of trepidation as, contrary to a lot of people, I was not a big fan of Sun Down Motel, and really hoped this one would live up to its hype. It certainly had a lot of elements that I enjoy: haunted, creepy house; eccentric character; mystery and secrets; and, of course, a crime committed in the past.  All of these elements should have lent themselves to a creepy and fun story, but unfortunately, the whole thing fell flat for me and I wasn't a bit fan of this one either.
First of all, while I thought the two main characters were interesting, that was pretty much it.  Neither of them grabbed my attention nor my sympathy so it was difficult to feel empathetic towards either of them.  Dual time lines seems to be the rage nowadays, but I don't think it works in all scenarios as it lowers the level of tension and suspense, and I do feel that was part of the problem in this book.  Both of the characters were okay as far as character development went, but the author didn't really go out of her way to make them likeable or sympathetic so I wasn't overly invested in what happened to them. To be honest, Shea got on my nerves far more than Beth. Furthermore, when Shea spoke about her childhood kidnapping, I actually thought it was worse than it was (not making light of the situation or her trauma), but there was a part of me that kept thinking she was being overly dramatic.  I don't know why I felt that way as her situation was traumatic, maybe it's just the way her character came across the page?
I did like how the Lady Killer was introduced in the book, although I do think that the author's introductions are always quite strong, but they just don't quite live up to the strength of those beginnings.  I like investigative work and actually found those nuggets to be quite fascinating, plus I liked how the information was doled out throughout the book.  What I didn't like was how easily Shea got access to information as it just seemed too coincidental and too easy.  Just because she is a blogger doesn't mean she has access to all these files and all these people; and people aren't just going to suddenly open up to her just because she's asking questions.  There was so much of "I wondered if someone was going to finally ask that question..." scenarios that I got tired of it.  
There were some elements of the paranormal in this story, and the author tried to put a creepiness vibe into it, but it didn't really work with the overall story.   I'm the first person to grab a book as soon as I see anything resembling a haunted house on the cover, but I want there to be a link and reason for it, not just for attention purposes. The reason seemed forced and it just didn't work for me.

The Book of Cold Cases was supposed to be a paranormal story, but I really feel like that aspect of the book was the weakest part, with no build-up and lack of overall story which made the ending quite disappointing.  Unfortunately, this was my least favourite book by this author as I found the whole execution to be somewhat lacking.  While the author's writing style is good, the entire book falls flat with regards to characters and story development.  Unfortunately, this wasn't for me.