The Coldest Blood
by Jim Kelly
Review by Beth Slater
St. Martin's Minotaur Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0312364784
Date: 09 January, 2007 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
This is the fourth book in Kelly's Phillip Dryden series, but it is the first I've read. Dryden is a reporter for a small-town paper where he lives on a boat while his wife is recuperating from an accident with a DUI. Life goes by slowly since his wife, Laura, has come out of her 4 year coma, and Dryden no longer drives. Ely, where he lives and works, is in the middle of the coldest weather in history and Dryden is working on a story on cold-weather fatalities and how to prevent them. When Dryden finds the body of one, iced over on the man's own front porch where he'd been locked out, he starts connecting dots that others don't see.
The story begins on a scene in 1974 at Dolphin Holiday Camp, and then quickly switches to present day Great Britain. This happens periodically throughout the story, although not enough to confuse the reader since the author gives minute hints to tie the two stories together. The reader then gets some background on Dryden's lonely life as a reporter, husband, and friend.
The initial investigation for Dryden is into the deaths caused by the cold front, but he quickly discovers that the two dead men were close friends and witnesses in a case of child abuse against a Catholic orphanage. He manages to engage the confidence of the only witness left – the priest who had been principal back then. It is all off the record, but it gives Dryden enough information to discover more mysterious paths in history that converge with the two dead men. The story has a gripping twist in it that isn't sudden, but enlightening, and helps lead the reader towards the culmination of the plot amidst the worst ice-storm on record.
Dryden is a likeable protagonist, and Humph, the cab driver, his quiet Watson-like foil. Dryden is following clues like a reporter would – albeit more like the reporter he used to be before the accident than he would for a small town weekly. The author is able to entwine the tales into a mystery with suspense that builds slowly, until the reader is reluctant to stop because of what might come next.
At first I wondered if I would like this book because it seemed to plod along and I didn't understand the background of the characters. However, the more I read the more I wanted to find out how it all tied together – or how it didn't. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the ending – it's not something one could figure out by reading the last page!