THE BOOK OF COLD CASES, by Simone St.James

When I encountered the synopsis for this novel I was immediately captivated by the story’s potential, and once I started reading I enjoyed the double-timeline, double perspective narrative, which managed to fuel the tension that runs throughout most of the book.

Shea Collins holds a run-of-the-mill job as a doctor’s receptionist by day, while at night she indulges her passion for unsolved crimes, managing a blog called The Book of Cold Cases, where she explores those crimes in well-researched detail. Shea’s keen interest might look somewhat obsessive on the outside, but the readers’ perspective changes once they discover that she survived a brutal assault in her childhood, one that left its mark on her and her ability to connect with strangers.   

The small town in which Shea lives is usually a quiet place, but forty years ago the community was shaken by the case of the Lady Killer: two men had been viciously murdered by a woman leaving cryptic messages on the scenes, and since rich heiress Beth Greer had been seen fleeing the area of one attack, she ended up being investigated for both murders. Worse still, the ballistic exam matched the bullets of both homicides with the ones that killed Beth’s father in his own home, a few years before the Lady Killer started her spree.

Lack of any incriminating evidence ultimately led to Beth’s acquittal, but the small town never forgot, and Beth’s detached, unconventional behavior never helped clear the suspicion hanging over her.

One day, Beth comes for a doctor’s appointment where Shea works, and once the younger woman recognizes the famous patient, she asks for an interview for her blog and – quite surprisingly – Beth agrees, starting a series of encounters between them that take place in the old Greer mansion, a place that seems frozen in time to a few decades prior, and where weird phenomena cast a creepy pall over an already uncomfortable setting.  As the meetings progress and the two women form a sort of bond (calling it ‘friendship’ would indeed stretch the truth), Shea understands that Beth is hiding something, maybe manipulating her for some mysterious reason, and at the same time, the flashbacks into Beth’s past show the evidence of a very unhappy family and one burdened by secrets and unspeakable truths…

The Book of Cold Cases started a bit slowly, and at times it lagged a little, but it never failed to keep me intrigued and compel me to get to the bottom of the mystery: the story is a very atmospheric one, in both temporal lines. The present, where Shea keeps pursuing her investigation with dogged determination, is dominated by the relationship between these two women who might appear quite different on the surface, but in reality have had to deal with traumatic events that have changed their perspective on the outside world. The past, where we learn about Beth’s previous life, blends her personal history (and that of her family) with the media’s intense focus on the murders and Beth’s alleged guilt: in this instance, particularly, one can see how public opinion can be influenced by circumstances to the point that they set themselves in the role of judge and jury. In the late ’70s – the time in which the murders occurred – a young woman, and a rich one, living alone and minding her own business was evidently too unconventional not to attract automatic suspicion and cast Beth in the role of murderer, and the “help” from the press, with the plethora of copies-selling misinformation bandied about, was certainly instrumental in establishing that image. 

The overall picture is indeed an engaging one, but in my opinion it was marred by two factors which spoiled my enjoyment a little: one is the supernatural component, which to me seems… pasted on, for want of a better word, and adds little or nothing to the tenseness of the story. True, the scary manifestations described in the book – the faucets that open on their own, the appearance of blood on the kitchen’s floor where Beth’s father was killed, and so on – add a chilling element to the story, but they are not fundamental in the solution of the mystery, nor do they truly serve to enhance the weirdness of Greer House, whose function as a portal to times past comes from the frozen quality of its decor and furnishings.  The other problem came for me from the too-early discovery of the killer’s identity: given the successful creation – up to that point – of a mood of suspense and mounting dread, this untimely revelation robbed the story of some of its momentum and left me a little disappointed.

Still, since the novel hinged on the interactions between Shea and Beth and the almost osmotic relationship established by their meetings, I found enough material in this novel to keep me engaged until the end, and – more important – to kindle my curiosity toward this author, whose other works I intend to explore in my next reading forays.

My Rating:

15 thoughts on “THE BOOK OF COLD CASES, by Simone St.James

  1. I didn’t mind the supernatural elements, especially since I was expecting them (I haven’t read her other books but I believe they also have them). I will be on the lookout for her next book😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Usually I do enjoy finding supernatural elements in novels, but here they felt more… pasted on than organically integrated. Still, the story was a good one, and I will take a look at other works by this author 🙂


  2. Ahhh. 3.5 …. a difficult rating! Thanks for sharing your thoughts; “The other problem came for me from the too-early discovery of the killer’s identity” ….this sort of thing can be a story breaker, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent review, Maddalena:)). Yes… any whodunit which gives away whodunit too soon definitely is severely flawed. It’s a testament to the author’s writing and the dynamic between the two women that your rating is so high.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was more generous in my rating than you but one the other hand I read less thriller and “chilling” books than you so that’s maybe why I was a little bit more impressed LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Aw snap, sorry to hear that the supernatural element and early reveal ruined the experience a bit. Everything else seemed so intriguing, which probably explains why you were so enthralled by this book in the first place! Great review as always, Maddalena! I love how you write your thoughts up! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words! 🙂
      I do enjoy the “intrusion” of the supernatural in the stories I read, but in this particular case it seemed…unnecessary, for want of a better word, and to me it proved distracting, while I otherwise enjoyed the novel.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have this on my TBR, even of jt is not really my usual cup of tea, supernatural elements and horror vibes are not my things but this sounds quite promising all the same, so I am glad to see that you enjoyed it, all things considered!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The mystery at the core of the novel is a very intriguing one, and it’s worth the time you might dedicated to reading the book. The horror is just a touch – more some ghostly visitations than anything else – so it should not trouble you at all 🙂


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