Thursday, November 02, 2017

Fiction Review: A Cold and Lonely Place

Last week, I finally wrote my summary of Books Read in September, relieved that I'd finished my reviews from last month. But, alas, I discovered I somehow missed writing a review of one of my creepy suspense novels for the R.I.P. Challenge, A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry, a past Booktopia author.

The novel takes place in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, New York, in the middle of winter, providing a dark and creepy backdrop to the story. Even if you haven’t been to that northern part of New York before (I went to college in that region), you probably remember the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid and how much snow there was.

Freelance writer Troy Chance lives and works in what is affectionately known by locals as the North Country. Troy lives in Lake Placid but is in Saranac Lake for the day, taking photos for a local newspaper. Today is the day that crews begin cutting huge ice blocks from the frozen lake to create the annual ice palace for the town's Winter Carnival. Troy had the idea to take photos and write articles each day, showing the structure's development from frozen lake to sparkling ice palace. Shortly after the crew begins to cut ice blocks, though, work comes to a sudden standstill. There's a body frozen in the ice…and it's someone Troy knows, a man named Tobin.

Troy rents out rooms in her house, and one of her roommates is a woman named Jessamyn, who was dating Tobin. Though no one knew much about his background, he seemed to come from a wealthy upbringing very different from the world of the small towns in the Adirondacks. He sometimes disappeared for a week or two and then returned and settled back into life in Lake Placid. The last time he left, though, he never came back, and Jessamyn had been heartbroken. Now Troy has to tell her his body was found in the ice.

From there, the story moves off in several different directions. Troy's editor asks her to write a series of articles about Tobin covering his background and childhood, his time in Lake Placid, and his demise. So, while the police are investigating his death - and it is not immediately clear whether it was an accident or murder - Troy is also digging into Tobin's life (with Jessamyn's blessing). Troy's sister, Win, arrives in Lake Placid and helps to fill in some of the gaps in Tobin's story.

Troy also learns that Tobin had an older brother who drowned in a boating accident when they were college-aged. As Troy digs deeper into Tobin's background and talks to Win, she begins to discover some questions still remain about how exactly Tobin's brother died. There are two mysteries at that point - how Tobin died and the exact details of his brother's death years earlier. Meanwhile, strange incidents begin occurring that feel like threats to Troy, as if someone doesn’t want her learning any more.

My husband and I both enjoyed this suspenseful novel and its unique setting (especially since we have vacationed in the area and know many of the local landmarks). This is not a fast-paced thriller but more of a literary suspense novel with a slow, burning tension and plenty of character development. How did Tobin die? Who was responsible for his brother's death? Who appears to be threatening Troy and why? All of these disparate threads slowly, quietly come together against the backdrop of the dark, cold Adirondack winter.

NOTE: The story makes frequent references to events from an earlier novel featuring Troy, the author's first book, Learning to Swim, which won several prestigious awards. Now I want to read that one, too! So, if you haven;t read either yet, you might want to start with the first one - A Cold and Lonely Place is not a sequel, per se, but it does reference events in the first book.

287 pages, Broadway Books

I read this one in print, but the audio sounds really good, too! You can listen to a free audio sample at the Amazon/Audible link below - you'll be hooked!

Disclosure: I purchased this book myself. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Learning to Swim
by Sara J HenryTrade Paperback

A Cold and Lonely Place
by Sara J HenryTrade Paperback

Or you can purchase Sara J. Henry's novels from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. You have really been doing the RIP Challenge well! This one sounds good, do you think reading the first one before this one would have been better?

    1. Thanks, Helen - I really enjoy RIP every fall because I like suspense-type novels but don't always have time to read them, so they pile up. October is over now, but I have many more books on my shelves that would qualify!

      I think if you haven;t read Sara J Henry before, then definitely start with the first book, Learning to Swim, as it introduces the characters and won lots of awards. That said, I had no problem jumping into this second novel - they are not sequels per se as much as two novels with the same characters.

  2. Thanks for turning me on to this one--sounds like a good one to read in the winter.