A Cold Dark Place by Gregg Olsen

Oh dear.

I picked up Gregg Olsen’s book A Cold Dark Place on a whim. It wasn’t on my to-read list; I hadn’t heard anything about it. I’ve been on a bit of a mystery-suspense thriller kick and this one sounded good.

When you’re talking about this kind of book, you don’t want to give too much away. I mean, generally speaking, suspense thrillers aren’t literary gems. I read them because they’re fun. Page turners filled with menace and heart-racing thrills.

A Cold Dark Place tells the story of Detective Emily Kenyon who is hot on the trail of a killer. A tornado has just swept through the town of Cherrystone, Washington. Kenyon has gone out to the home of a family no one has heard from since the storm. Their house is leveled, but a closer inspection of the premises turns up three dead bodies: dad, mom and a young boy. They’d all been murdered. The older son, Nick, is missing. Soon after Kenyon begins her investigation, her teenage daughter, Jenna, disappears. Jenna and Nick were friends, but Kenyon can only believe the worst.

This is only the beginning of a convoluted plot that involves convicted serial killer Dylan Walker, old cases that Kenyon was involved in, an adoption agency, a hateful relationship with her ex-husband, a creepy lawyer and an ex-partner who turns up at the end to help Kenyon.

The ending is wholly unbelievable (and, okay, sometimes that’s the case in this sort of book), but worse- the characters are shrill and annoying. Olsen was a true crime writer before he turned to fiction and maybe that’s why none of the book’s details seemed authentic. (I know, it seems ridiculous- but a true crime writer doesn’t have to fabricate anything.) In A Cold Dark Place what characters had for dinner seems like a tacked on detail rather than an investment in their character- and let’s face it, if you’re not rooting for someone in this kind of book, the denouement hardly matters.

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