The Cold Nowhere: Brian Freeman
Each person faces his/her own demons, fears, and remembrances in different ways. Some hide from the truth while others bury it even deeper within the confines of their mind. Survival means many things to different people and often both teens and adults search for their own way to stay alive. When one young girl named Cat finds herself in a dangerous situation that she put herself in thinking she was just taking care of some rich man’s needs for money, she thinks fast, devises a plan in her mind and takes action before winding up a victim of someone that lurks in the dark and cannot be seen. Facing the body of this man whom she knocked out with the heel of her shoe, Cat holds a knife within the fingers of her hand and has to decide whether to take his life or find a way to escape. On a boat with other girls and many other people and one man who is lurking in the dark almost like a phantom, she manages to find her way, although blindly at times in the dark, down some slippery passageways and jumps off the side of the boat into the canal finding her way to safety in a most unusual way.
Jonathan Stride is a police detective on the Duluth Police force. Coming home he senses something when approaching his home. Gun in hand he enters his condo and finds someone hiding in a closet. Wet, dirty, afraid and quite fragile, he uses his every skill and calmly gains the confidence of this young girl making he feel safe. But, what is her true story and who is following her? Why does she relate that some is trying to kill her? What about her makes him take her in and want to protect her? How does she relate to someone from his past? The Cold Nowhere by Brian Freeman brings to light these issues and many more as Jonathan Stride along with this partner Maggie Bei take on Cat, find out about her past and learn more about her present.
Memories flood back as the author reminds readers of her past and the tragic death of her mother to which she was an eyewitness. Hiding within the confines of her porch deep within the Minnesota woods, this young child at only six years of age witnessed the brutal stabbing of her mother by her own father. Screams, shouts, blood, terror fills the air and her heart but she is helpless. Ten years later this sixteen-year-old teen walks the street, is a victim of so much abuse and finds her way to a party for a rich businessman-taking place at a lakeside locale. Prostitution is her manner of survival and doing tricks her forte. Someone is stalking her and trying to kill her and her only means of survival is to plunge deeply into the cold and frigid waters of the canal and find her way to the one man’s home for help: Jonathan Stride.
As the story unfolds we hear Jonathan’s first words to Cat, finding out that she is the daughter of Michaela Mateo someone from his past whose murder still preys on his mind. First on the scene finding her brutally butchered body and seeing her husband Marty Gamble’s next to hers with a gun that he turned on himself, after taking her body apart with a knife, Jonathan now has to decide how to help Cat and if the story she related to him is the truth.
Cat is plagued with nightmares about someone that was supposed to care for her but used her and others for his own purpose. As events from her past come front and center in the present she places not only Stride in danger but others too. While Stride looks into her past, meets with a young prostitute, learns that Cat just might be telling some part of a truth, someone protecting her loses her life while confronting his partner about her actions that might change their relationship even more. Memories flood back and their time together relived as Maggie Bei enlists the help of her new boyfriend to find out more about Cat before someone else pays with their life. But, within this intricate plot we hear the voice of K2 the Chief of Police who is tight with the one man who seems to hold too many cards, a card dealer that has connections with a janitor who seems to be able to provide entertainment when needed. Lenny the sleazy car salesman has too much power and is up for city council as well as Curt his supplier of women at parties keeping clients happy. But, just whose voice do we hear on the phone making sure that Cat will be eliminated and anyone else that stands in his/her way. When Kim is asked to watch over Cat, talk with her and take her to dinner, what happens when they return will bring back memories of another violent murder enacted in the same way?
When Serena Dial reenters Stride’s life will they be able to forget the past, deal with the present and find out who is after Cat? With Kim’s murder still fresh and a killer lose Cat is concerned that she might be next but evidence points in so many directions that Stride, Maggie and Serena need to work overtime to find this elusive killer that is more than two steps ahead of them. Added in Cat’s Aunt Dory has a secret that she wants to confess, refuses to get any kind of help for her drug addiction and swears she would never leave or hurt Cat. But, sometimes promises are not meant to be broken but fate steps in and they are. When a female reporter goes missing and the link is made to the murder of Lowball Lenny’s wife Rebekah, the clue that binds it together comes right back at Cat. As Margot questioned Cat, published an article on her in her paper, interviewed Lenny and many others someone wanted her out of the way and provided their own version of a Cold Nowhere for her final resting place. A teenage prostitution ring in their own backyard, a rich and powerful car dealer and politician, a police chief in his hip pocket so to speak binding Stride’s hands in many ways as he enlists the help of Maggie, Serena and a really adorable sergeant named Guppo, who provides the humor and spark in many ways in this investigation.
The air is frigid, the climate really cold, the snow falls in huge drifts and the powdery spray often blinds your eyes as the cold winter in Duluth plays a major part in this novel hampering many parts of the investigation, making it hard to get around causing accidents. Michaela Mateo and her husband Marty Gamble, Cat’s parents are at the center of this investigation even though they are dead. Michaela brutally killed by Marty and Marty in what appears as a suicide shooting himself in head with his gun. But, did he or was it made to look like a murder and what about the home invasion of Lenny’s house killing his wife? Did the person they caught really commit the crime or is what his girlfriend stated the truth?
Taking Cat back to the scene of the crime both Serena and Stride hope to jog her memory unlocking a piece of the mystery that even her sleazy psychiatrist did not learn. When the threads begin to bind together and the truth behind several murders comes out you won’t believe who was behind the murder of Michaela and Marty and who the puppeteer was that manipulated so many people into his lair.
You can hear the snow crunch under your feet and feel the cold chill in the air as Cat runs for her life, winds up in serious danger and learns of betrayals, deceit, lies and finally trust as some of the themes that run through this book along with spousal, mental, verbal and physical abuse.
Pondering his or her relationship takes back seat when Cat is in danger and someone close to her proves not to be trusted. But, when all is said and done just whom can she trust and where will this young teen wind up?
Brooke Hahne helps teens in trouble running the Praying Hands Shelter and spends time writing grant proposals to get funding to help kids in need. But, like Cat, Maggie, Serena and even Stride she has a secret that has been buried for so long when it comes out many lives will be saved. Lenny Keck’s wife was killed in what appeared to be a home invasion but did he pay someone to kill her? Margot Huizenfelt a journalist questions Cat, Brooke and several others as she begins to piece the puzzle together and winds up dead in a deep freeze.
Surprises come within this intricate plot in many different ways as Maggie and Serena vie for Stride’s loyalty and attention but which one will he choose and who will be left out in the cold? Tensions rise every time these two are within ten feet of each other. One works with Stride and the other wants his heart. When the final scene is played out and the killer is revealed just who it is will surprise you as some murderers hide in plain sight while others remain hidden forever. Frightening, graphically depicted, this fast paced mystery/thriller will keep you guessing throughout the entire novel as one killer takes so many into deep, dark, frigid and cold places within their hearts, minds, their bodies as souls as The Cold Nowhere can be anyplace you find yourself alone, depressed and feeling hopeless.
Faced with her own demons, hoping to find her way into a life with some semblance Cat faces one more major decision as she comes face to face with a killer, learns the harsh truth about her parent’s deaths as the fate of so many just might be in the grip of the hand holding the knife. Author Brian Freeman allows readers to decide their own feelings for Cat, whether she can be trusted or is she still hiding something that has been buried within her for so long that when it comes out things would change not only for her but others too. Murder, hate, lies, greed, fear, regret, forgiveness and trust: Which ones will survive and which ones will finally find their own way and buried in their own Cold Nowhere and just where will Stride, Serena and Cat wind up next? This is Brian Freeman’s best Stride novel with the suspense top notch.
Fran Lewis: reviewer