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

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Simone St. James is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Sun Down Motel and The Broken Girls. Her debut novel, The Haunting of Maddy Clare, won two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada.

Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside of Toronto, Canada with her husband and a spoiled rescue cat.

Publisher: Berkley (March 15, 2022) Page count: 352 Formats: ebook, paperback, audiobook

I had a blast listening to this story. It finds a nice balance between mystery, drama, and paranormal elements. Shea Collins, a newly divorced medical receptionist, has one passion – a blog Book of Cold Cases she writes by night. Among the local cases that haunt her, one stands out: the Lady Killer murders. In 1977, 23-year-old Beth Greer faced accusations of killing two men. With no apparent reason or motive; just to check if anyone would catch her. The evidence was condemning but indirect, so Beth didn’t end up in prison.

Still, a witness sighted her at the murder scene. The weapon used to kill two men was also used to kill Beth’s father during an attempted burglary several years prior. Beth’s youth, beauty, wealth, and refusal to cooperate with the press fueled media frenzy, resulting in her moniker as the Lady Killer, and her subsequent retreat from public view. 

The case remains an unsolved local mystery. Shea meets Beth by chance and acts on a whim. To her surprise, Beth agrees to an interview at her eerie seaside home. Soon, the disturbing secrets from the past start to surface. Shifting perspectives between Shea and Beth, both in the past and present, St. James builds tension between their narratives, skilfully using some genre conventions while subverting others along the way.

It’s my second St. James’s book and I like how she combines murder, family secrets, and drama.  It compensates for moderate pacing with foreshadowing, subtle tension, and a gradual build-up to final reveals. Supernatural elements help in creating an eerie atmosphere of the mansion and feature strongly in the final chapters. That said, I felt the connection between mysteries and the supernatural wasn’t perfect but it added some depth to the story. 

Ultimately, The Book of Cold Cases is perfect for busier times when you crave something immersive and quick to read.

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