Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Cold Blooded

Cold Blooded
by Lisa Jackson
Recommended Ages: 15+

Rick Bentz is a New Orleans homicide detective with a younger partner, introduced in a previous book titled Hot Blooded. He has a college-age daughter who isn't really his, a hang-up about the fact that his ex-wife cheated on him with his half-brother (who happens to be a Catholic priest), and since he busted a killer priest in his previous case, a bit of a hang-up about the church. Plus, you know, trust issues. So imagine how he takes it when a beautiful woman barges into his office, claiming to have had a psychic dream about a priest horribly murdering a woman, and almost immediately a murder scene turns up mirroring every detail of her dream. Bentz doesn't know whether to gather Olivia Benchet into his protecting arms or to push her away.

Long story short, he ends up having to make up his mind really quick when the killer, who knows that Olivia sees everything he does, steps up his gruesome timetable and crafts a gruesome "martyrdom of the saints" scenario around her. And her best friend. And Bentz's daughter, just to be complete. Family secrets, eerie visions, psychosis with religious features, sex, murder, and struggles of conscience flock around Olivia, Bentz, his estranged brother, and even his partner, whose girlfriend's disappearance goes unsolved in spite of this mystery's highly wrought climax.

It was wrought so highly, in fact, that I thought it may have been a bit overdone. A red herring character, skillfully dragged across the killer's trail, is disposed of rather too glibly, while Father James' torment comes to a resolution that somehow, to me, seemed both too easy and over-indulgently drawn out at the same time. Also, I don't really get the romance between Bentz and Olivia. While I sympathize with the detective's past relationship troubles, I just don't buy the way such a strong, independent woman melts into his arms, and then keeps going back to him in spite of his repeated cruelty. Maybe the problem is I'm just not made to enjoy romance novels. But while the focus is on the killer's diabolical doings, the story is pretty gripping. The "whodunit" reveal is actually satisfying, which isn't a given in today's crime fiction. The horror scenes are horrific, the suspense scenes tingle, and the climax pulls all the story threads together in a tight grip. The only thing missing, in my opinion, is a stronger sense of local color, which should maybe be expected of a novel set in New Orleans.

This review is based on listening to the audiobook narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan. Following Hot Blooded (which I haven't read), this book is the second in the New Orleans-based Bentz/Montoya series of mystery thrillers, which is currently up to eight books. Jackson is also the author of two "Abandoned" novels, of which the second, titled Million Dollar Baby, bears no relation to the Clint Eastwood film by the same name; four "Maverick" western romance novels, a "historic trilogy" penned as Susan Lynn Crose, at least four "Love Letters" books (A Is for Always, etc.), three "Dark Jewels" novels, the "Forever Family" romance trilogy, five "McCaffertys" novels, three "San Francisco" thrillers, the "Medieval Trilogy," the "Savannah" trilogy, eight "Montana/To Die" thrillers, two "Wyoming" novels coauthored with Nancy Bush and Rosalind Noonan, and some 40 other novels. This was my first time reading anything by her, as far as I can recall. I'm personally more interested in the crime thriller side of her work than in the romance, but this book hits both angles.

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