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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 /

A record-breaking cold spell is gripping England. Philip Dryden is a reporter for The Crow in Ely; he is investigating two impoverished men, Declan McIlroy and Joe Petulengo, who have frozen to death at their homes. He suspects they were murdered and their deaths staged to look like accidents. After a failed attempt on his life, Dryden learns McIlroy and Petulengo were childhood friends of his when he spent the summer of 1974 at the Dolphin Holiday Camp with his uncle and aunt. His investigation leads him to St. Vincent's Catholic Orphanage where McIlroy and Petulengo were abused as children. Dryden and his comatose wife, Laura, vacation at the Dolphin Holiday Spa (formerly the Dolphin Holiday Camp). He learns that its current staff is hiding secrets concerning a high-profile murder that occurred there when McIlroy, Petulengo and he were friends.

Also by Jim Kelly:
Philip Dryden:
* The Coldest Blood
* The Skeleton Man
* Nightrise
* The Funeral Owl
* The Water Clock
* The Fire Baby
* The Moon Tunnel
Peter Shaw and George Valentine Series:
* Death Wore White
* Death Watch
* Death Toll
* Death's Door
* At Death's Window
* Death on Demand

England's gorgeous Black Fens become a treacherous, frozen wasteland in Jim Kelly's classic chiller, The Coldest Blood. Once again, Kelly weaves a complex mystery involving a cold case. In 1974, Chips Connor, a handsome lifeguard at the Dolphin Holiday Camp, was convicted of murdering a male nurse, Paul Gedney, who was stealing from a safe. Connor admitted to striking Gedney with a stapler but not killing him. Gedney's blood was found throughout the inside of a derelict boat; however, his corpse, presumed to have been dumped at sea, was never located. Connor still rots in prison. Dryden believes whoever framed Connor may have murdered McIlroy and Petulengo. As always in Kelly's novels, there is a virtual smorgasbord of suspects, ranging from a disgraced priest to a lonesome heiress to a company executive who peddles pot to teens in Ely.

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.

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