Sunday, February 8, 2015

Review: Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag

Cold Cold Heart
by Tami Hoag
Release Date: January 15th, 2015
2015 Dutton Adult
Ebook Edition; 368 Pages
ISBN: 978-0525954545
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Murder
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Dana Nolan was a promising young TV reporter until a notorious serial killer tried to add her to his list of victims.  Nearly a year has passed since surviving her ordeal, but the physical, emotional, and psychological scars run deep.  Struggling with the torment of post-traumatic stress syndrome, plagued by flashbacks and nightmares as dark as the heart of a killer, Dana returns to her hometown in an attempt to begin to put her life back together.  But home doesn’t provide the comfort she expects.

Dana’s harrowing story and her return to small town life have rekindled police and media interest in the unsolved case of her childhood best friend, Casey Grant, who disappeared without a trace the summer after their graduation from high school.  Terrified of truths long-buried, Dana reluctantly begins to look back at her past.  Viewed through the dark filter of PTSD, old friends and loved ones become suspects and enemies.  Questioning everything she knows, refusing to be defined by the traumas of her past and struggling against excruciating odds, Dana seeks out a truth that may prove too terrible to be believed…

My Thoughts
Cold Cold Heart actually continues the story that began in The 9th Girl, a previous stand-alone murder / mystery about a serial killer, and is not a Kovak and Liska novel.  So often we read novels about serial murderers and the chase to capture them and save the victims, but we don't often get to read about the survivors' stories and their struggles to return to a 'normal' life after their experiences.  This novel explores Dana Nolan's recovery after her horrific ordeal at the hands of a serial killer and her struggle with PTSD as she attemps to go back home and recover a semblance of the life she once had.

Dana suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome as well as brain damage inflicted during her ordeal which has impacted both her short- and long-term memories.  Struggling day by day just to remember the things we take for granted, remembering to turn the water off after showering, to brush her teeth, to brush her hair, how to get from her bedroom to the living room, Dana goes home to finish her recovery after spending months convalescing.  Having difficulty with word recall, and having few filters, she tends to say whatever is on her mind, sometimes using the wrong word, often embarrassing those around her.  She tends to refer to herself as After Dana and doesn't have a real connection with the Before Dana, the one she is struggling to recall as she has few memories of that girl.  My heart often went out to her during her struggles, and I definitely wanted to strangle her step-dad a few times as he just seemed so concerned with his own image and himself, but it must have been so difficult for her family to cope, not only with how different she must have been, but with the fact they almost lost her too.  

At the center of this mystery are two of Dana's childhood friends, John and Tim. John is also dealing with PTSD, having serving in the military for several years, and was formally discharged after several tours of duty when he was injured during the last one, also with a brain injury.  He is destitute, still not having received any money from the military, and had to move back home and live with his alcoholic and abusive father.  Being able to read his point of view about events is interesting and I really enjoyed the dual points of view.  John is one of those guys who really grows on you and I found myself rooting for him throughout the novel.  That's all I will say about him or I will give away the ending which I don't want to do.  Tim, on the other hand, I found too slick; I can't really explain it other than the author is a really great writer to make me feel the way I do about these two characters.  I just found him creepy and I didn't like how he hung around Dana all of the time, asking her all of these questions.  

I enjoyed the plot quite a bit, but I will admit that I liked reading about Dana's recovery far more than I liked the mystery.  I thought the whole thing was a bit cliched and predictable, and I didn't really like the reason behind the murder.  There was one other storyline that was resolved that I did like however, and for whatever reason never even crossed my mind as a possibility - sloppy of me.  When you read it, you'll understand.

Cold Cold Heart (but not a Kovak and Liska novel) was an interesting follow-up to The 9th Girl and I was glad I got some resolution to Dana's story.  I really enjoyed reading about her recovery and the difficulties she had trying to cope with her new situation as well as trying to cope with an over-protective mother and a step-dad who was afraid she might ruin his career.  I wasn't overly crazy about the mystery itself, but it gave the reader a chance to explore the characters who shaped Dana's early life and that, I found interesting.  The mystery, I thought was predictable and I felt like the author was really scrambling to come up with a plausible reason to make it all work within the context we were given.  What was really good were the red herrings as there were several, and a couple I was hoping were guilty.