John Smolens's matter-of-fact narrative style pairs ideally with this gritty yarn about a convict who, after fleeing a work detail in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, sets off through a snowstorm to reclaim the life he'd enjoyed before his duplicitous family sent him to prison. Here's an example of Smolens's style from early on in Cold, when escapee Norman Haas is involved in a trucking accident. Rather than save the trapped driver from his rig's explosion, Norman steals a van from a stranger who has stopped to help them both. "As he pushed in the clutch and shifted into first gear," Smolens writes,
he realized there was a familiar smell in the warm van. The ashtray was full of rolls of Certs; he picked up one and began peeling back the paper. In the rearview mirror he could see the burning truck. The flames now rose high above the cab, and thick black smoke blew into the trees alongside the road. Norman put a Certs in his mouth. The taste reminded him of inside, where he'd sucked on Certs all day long. Wintergreen.
Norman never achieves much more dimension than that. He exists primarily as a catalyst, forcing this book's other more intricately drawn characters to reveal their own pain, mendacity, or longing. These include characters like his ex- fiancée, Noel, who saw Norman's incarceration as just revenge for his abuse; she went on to marry his malingering brother, but now intends to run away with Norman to Canada. Or like Del Maki, the small-town sheriff whose dogged pursuit of the escapee is entwined with his growing appreciation for a widowed sculptor who'd tried to convince Norman to turn himself in. As these players, along with Noel's hunter father and his mysterious Asian business partner, converge at a remote cabin, they incite a desperate, violent clash that exposes both the deception at the root of Norman's conviction and an ugly conspiracy to profit from wildlife destruction. Cold is fiction to chill the soul--too revealing of human selfishness to be easily read, too well-written to be easily put down. --J. Kingston Pierce
In the frozen reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, fierce winter storms can hit without notice. In the white opacity of one such blizzard, Norman Haas simply walks away from his prison work detail without detection.
After agonizing days of blistering cold, Norman finds himself at the farmhouse of a lonely middle-aged woman who gives him temporary shelter while keeping him at a comfortable distance with her late husband’s shotgun. When she tries to turn him in, he escapes again. Thus begins a riveting story of Norman’s journey back to his past, back to the woman he loved who betrayed him, back to the brother who helped put him away, and back to a dangerous web of family allegiances, deceptions, and intrigue.
On Norman’s trail is Del Maki, the hard-working sheriff of Yellow Dog Township, a fork in the road on the way to Canada. Cold takes us deep into an intricate, fascinating tale, where love, greed, and the promise of a last chance compel six people toward a chilling and inevitable reckoning.
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