The Coldest Blood (Philip Dryden)
by Jim Kelly
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Kindle Edition ISBN/ITEM#: B0050Q5WS4
Date: 09 January 2007 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / See B. Slater's Review / Show Official Info /
Dryden is one of the most unique detectives that readers will encounter in crime fiction. Several years ago, a reckless driver forced his car off the road and into one of the many drains (artificial watercourses such as ditches or trenches) that crisscross the Black Fens. The ambulance took him away, leaving his wife, a renowned actress, Laura, forgotten in the back seat; with her head barely above the freezing water, she remained there for hours. Now she is in a rare type of coma known as LIS (Locked-in Syndrome). Laura communicates with Dryden through a computer device known as a COMPASS. Her condition hasn't changed much since the previous novel (The Moon Tunnel) except she has become depressed and wants Dryden to help her commit suicide. She yearns to leave the hospital, hence the reason for their retreat to the Dolphin Holiday Spa.
Dryden was also affected mentally by the horrific crash. He never drives. Instead, a large, overweight loner, known as Humph, drives him wherever he needs to go. During the weekdays, Dryden is his only customer; on the weekends, he can have other clients. Humph, and his Great Dane, Boudicca, practically live together in his car, an old Capri. He keeps the heater blasting away while listening to tapes that teach him to speak foreign languages. Needless to say, the vehicle's interior often smells rancid. Dryden must cherish Humph's companionship or else he would seek psychiatric counseling in order to regain his ability to drive himself. Also, I must add that Dryden's living accommodations are rather odd. He owns a houseboat moored on the River Great Ouse; it is actually a superannuated 1930s naval inshore patrol boat, PK 122. He also has an oddball assortment of coworkers at The Crow.
The Coldest Blood will chill you to the bone. I made the mistake of reading it during a cold spell. (I should have waited for a heat wave.) It lowered my body temperature and submerged me into a deep depression. The novel's characters must face freezing rains, hailstones, and treacherous winds. A vacation at the Dolphin Holiday Spa turns into a grueling nightmare. Betrayal, deception, and murder abound. Add peculiar characters, strange settings, and plenty of blood and you have the essential ingredients of another best-selling Jim Kelly novel. The killer wasn't revealed until nearly the end and I didn't have a clue to his/her identity. Eventually, all story lines are nicely wrapped up in a poignant, endearing package.
Nightrise was the first Philip Dryden novel I read; I enjoyed it so much that I had to read all of his earlier adventures, beginning with The Water Clock. Only one remains, The Skeleton Man, and I can't wait to chew on that one.