Cold As Ice – Lee Weeks

5125wslP0aL._SY445_Cold As Ice by Lee Weeks is the second novel by Lee Weeks about DC Ebony Willis and DI Dan Carter and the North London MIT. You had better wrap up warm for the blurb:

There’s a time to love, a time to hate, a time to heal …and a time to kill. On a freezing cold winter’s day, the body of a young woman is pulled from an icy canal in London. To D.I. Dan Carter it looks like a tragic accident rather than the work of a murderer. But D.C. Ebony Willis is not so sure. Why has the woman’s face been painted with garish make-up and wrapped in a plastic bag?

Meanwhile cosmetics saleswoman Tracy Collins receives a phonecall. It’s been twenty years since she gave up her daughter for adoption, so when Danielle gets in touch, she hesitantly begins to kindle a relationship with her and her grandson Jackson. But when Danielle suddenly disappears, Tracy is plunged into the middle of a living nightmare.

With the discovery of another body, it becomes clear that Danielle is in grave danger. There is no time to lose and Ebony Willis must take on the most challenging assignment of her career – to play the role of the killer’s next victim.

The time of year is fast-approaching where I’ll be going into gorge-mode. I’ll be eating a lot of Quality Street, a lot of satsumas, walnuts and trifle. All at the same time, most probably. I’ll also be lounging about indolently, and consuming a lot of calorific plot and narrative.

Cold As Ice is as good a way of getting into the swing of things as any. It’s the type of crime novel you’ll probably find yourself gorging yourself on in one or two sittings.

The plot is a familiar one – investigators race to stop a killer before he claims his next victim – but there’s a lot to get your teeth into. Weeks provides a good-sized wedge of narrative, a number of dodgy suspects, some grotesque imagery, and an interesting set of investigators. There’s a good sense of momentum to the whole thing – the pages fly by – ending in a gloriously over-the-top climax.

I really like the team of investigators – Willis, Carter, Robbo an the rest – and Weeks juggles them all well. I like the way she doesn’t frontload the narrative with a lot of backstory about them. Instead, the early pages are very much told from the point-of-view of a middle-aged woman, Tracy Collins, who unexpectedly finds herself caught up in the investigation.

Tracy – all hair and make-up – is a lovely character, and her attempts to make contact with the daughter she gave away when she was just fifteen are touching. Her bewildered attempts to cope with her daughter’s subsequent disappearance, as the responsibility of looking after her special needs grandson is thrust upon her, provides the emotional core of the first half of the book.

Sadly, Tracy takes a backseat in the second half when Cold As Ice becomes more procedural. Instead, Willis shakes up the narrative by sending her damaged protagonist Willis undercover. The climax descends into some commonplace melodramatic business. The finale is as camp as egg nog – the prancing killer has a ton of affectations and props – but Weeks builds to it nicely, and it’s undeniably very satisfying.

Cold As Ice lacks a bit of logic in the way it unfolds, coincidences abound, and the author switches point-of-view without a care in the world – furthermore, the typos in the text are maddening – but it has a verve and energy. I like the books I read to be full of story and full of dangled questions, and Weeks provides plenty of both.

Sometimes Cold As Ice is a bit like Tracy Collins on her beauty counter in the run up to Christmas, it’s all rush, rush, rush, but there’s no question it’s highly entertaining, the kind of grimly macabre story that reminds us why we all love this crazy genre in the first place. Since you’re asking, yes, I can quite imagine you with your feet up, a box of Cadbury’s Heroes wedged at your side, reading this over the Christmas holiday,

Thriller tip: The ticking clock. It’s the oldest trick in the book. When Danielle goes missing the team race against time to find her before she turns up dead. Adding a ticking clock gives immediacy and momentum to your story.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the review copy of Cold Of Ice.

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