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The Cold Kiss by John Rector
Cover Artist: Getty Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Forge Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765326430
Date: 06 July 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Nate and Sara are a young couple driving from Minnesota to Reno, Nevada. All their belongings are piled inside their car. At a roadside diner, they meet the mysterious Syl White who is coughing up blood. Greed overrides good judgment and they agree to give him a ride to Omaha, Nebraska for $500. A blizzard forces them to stay at the secluded, rundown Oasis Inn. Soon afterwards, Sly appears to die from a bullet wound he'd been concealing. Nick and Sara are a little too eager to dispose of his corpse, especially after finding two million dollars in his suitcase. Unfortunately, they learn their motel contains several dangerous psychotics who turn their snowbound visit into a living hell.

John Rector's The Cold Kiss is a highly suspenseful, highly provocative crime drama that moves at a fast clip. The love of money and its ability to corrupt seem to be major themes of this violent, gory yarn. The Cold Kiss has elements of the teen horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer and the classic, groundbreaking Psycho. The employees and guests of the Oasis Inn are very strange. Some of them are psychotic killers. None of them can be trusted.

Snowbound settings are a favorite of mine. In The Cold Kiss, we have a secluded motel where everyone is trapped by a raging snow storm. Phone lines are down and cell hones don't work. The electricity is also off. Thank goodness for natural gas, which is used to cook food and keep the cabins warm. Unfortunately, a killer is breaking into the cabins, looking for the stolen two million.

The main character is Nate. We never learn his last name. The story is told in the first person from Nate's point of view. An ex-convict who's morally weak, he's not the type of person I strongly admire. At times, I found his actions rather despicable. However, let's not judge Nate too harshly. After all, he's young and foolish. The reader can't help but wonder how he/she would react upon finding two million dollars in a dying man's belongings. I can only hope that I wouldn't repeat Nate’s actions.

Sara (we don't know her last name either) is engaged to be married to Nate. Serving as his conscience, she keeps insisting they go to the police, but he refuses. Soon Nate becomes so ensnarled by his own deceitful lies that it becomes impossible for him, an ex-convict, to contact the authorities. Someone has been watching Nate ever since he arrived at the motel. That someone will soon be blackmailing him, forcing him to commit more crimes. Sara, meanwhile, remains isolated in the cabin, too nauseous from guilt to mingle with the others who are also trapped in the motel.

The motel owner is Butch Sollars. He is very protective of his strange nephew Zack who is a religious fanatic and a hypocrite. An ex-convict like Nate, Zack appears at times to have a split personality. An elderly couple, Marcus and Caroline, are also trapped guests at the motel. Marcus is easy going whereas his wife is a snooping, domineering woman who is determined to learn Syl's identity when his body is discovered. A lonely Russian nurse, Megan, rounds out the cast. There is also a dangerous woman, Lilith. Syl cringes in fear when he speaks her name. He swears she will come looking for the two million. It is unknown whether Lilith is a real person or a figment of a dying man's delusional mind.

As the title suggests, The Cold Kiss has a strong romantic element. Sara likes to kiss Nate. In fact, she is often asking him to kiss her for good luck. However, Nate doesn't believe in luck, and he doesn't believe in God. Nate, who is haunted by the death of his fifteen-year-old brother Vincent and suffers migraine headaches because of an injury inflicted on him in prison, doesn't seem to believe in much of anything. Considering his apathy and the freezing temperatures, it's no wonder his kisses are cold. Despite his stubbornness to relinquish his hold on the two million, Sara continues to love him. At the novel's conclusion, Sara gives Nate one last kiss for good luck, a kiss that appears quite sizzling.

The Cold Kiss is highly recommended reading for fans of crime drama, especially if you like cold, isolated settings with howling winds and freezing temperatures. Some of my favorite horror films have isolated motels and creepy employees and guests; ranging from the classic to the modern, these films include Psycho, Motel Hell, Mountaintop Motel Massacre, Identity, and Vacancy. If you enjoy reading horror and mystery novels with snowbound settings, then I recommend reading James Thompson's Snow Angels, Ronald Damian Malfi's Snow, and Snowbound and Abandon, which are both written by Blake Crouch. These novels are guaranteed to add a chill of suspense to you hot summer.

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