Two-time Whitney Award winner Stephanie Black’s newest novel Cold As Ice was released this month and is generating a lot of excitement among her fans.  Black has become known for her suspense novels that flirt right at the edge of horror.

Cold_as_iceAbigail Wyatt has worked for five years to bring about a reconciliation between her brother, Derek, and their parents.  Derek has long been at odds with his parents, but his drunken behavior at his grandmother’s funeral that resulted in the destruction of a treasured memento that had been passed from his grandmother to his mother brings about a total break-off between parents and son.  All of Abigail’s careful work goes out the window when his landlady crashes the carefully planned dinner to heap insults on Derek and demand rent payment.  When the landlady is found dead, Derek is the most likely suspect.

Abigail doesn’t believe her brother is guilty, though his foolish evasions of the truth convince the police of his guilt. Thinking the only way to save himself is to run, he does so in the most foolish way possible. If the police won’t look for another suspect, Abigail determines to find the guilty party herself.  Her search makes her a target for the murderer and inadvertently leads both the real killer and the police to her brother.

Abigail’s determined championship of her brother gets her yelled at and threatened by her former boyfriend who is also the representative of the owner of the building where her business is located.  Her partner’s boyfriend becomes her confidante.  A would-be artist who lives across the hall from Derek attempts to blackmail her. The victim’s ex-husband manages to stay a step ahead of her, and her own narcissist parents wash their hands of their son.

I like Abigail better than Black’s previous heroines.  She makes a lot of blunders, but she’s a much stronger, healthier heroine than those other leading ladies, even if she does try too hard to please her self-centered parents.  Other characters are well-developed, much more so than in most mystery/suspense novels which generally revolve around plot to the exclusion of character development.  I read a lot of mystery/suspense novels and was able to pick out the real murderer fairly early, though a later scene made me seriously doubt I’d chosen correctly.  Black is a master at presenting trivial details that make the story feel strong and realistic, then surprise! those details weren’t so trivial after all.

The plotting for this story is a delicate web that moves along at an easy pace, then suddenly rushes to multiple climaxes.  It’s like an amusement park thrill ride, sending the reader careening off into several directions each fraught with white-knuckle excitement, then leaving the rider at the end both glad it’s over and anxious to go again.  Black’s many fans and those trying something new, will not be disappointed in this thriller.

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COLD AS ICE by Stephanie Black, published by Covenant Communications, softcover, 296 pages, $16.99