Cold Girl, by R. M. Greenaway (2016)

Cold Girl, by R.M. GreenawayI feel a bit ashamed that my interest in this debut Canadian mystery was first piqued by the fact its plot is loosely based on the real-life tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women on the Yellowhead Highway west of Prince George known as the Highway of Tears. Additionally, the author is from Nelson, a nearby West Kootenay town, which is still in B.C. but a good 1500 kms from where she has set this mystery. (That’s how big our gorgeous province is.) Anyway, the “local” setting intrigued me and I picked up a copy from my library. This is the first in a series, and number 2 has just been issued, under the title Undertow. In the series debut, several very different cops are investigating the disappearance of a popular singer, Kiera Rilkoff. Constable David Leith works out of Prince Rupert, and heads the task force trying to find a serial killer working Highway 16 known as the Pickup Killer. He’s sent to investigate Rilkoff’s abduction as a possible next victim of the Pickup Killer. Leith is doubtful but follows up. When a key piece of evidence appears to link Kiera to the serial killer, he stays in the Hazeltons to investigate, under direction of the local sergeant, a prickly Metis woman named Giroux. She is a fierce defender of those who live in the North and can’t understand why anyone would live anywhere else. Also on temporary assignment from Smithers is Const. Dion (I don’t think we learn his first name), who originally hails from the Lower Mainland where, more than a year ago, he was in a severe car accident that left him struggling with memory and cognitive function. He doesn’t share this information with his colleagues in the North, who are left scratching their heads as to how he made it through Depot training. Finally, we also have Sgt. Mike Bosco, in Prince Rupert from North Vancouver to give a keynote at a security conference. He tacks on a few vacation days and tags along with Leith on the drive to Hazelton, offering his perspective and ideas on the investigation, whether or not it’s welcomed. The story unfolds following Dion and Leith in third person narrative as they try to find out what happened to Kiera. They investigate her bandmates, the band’s big-city manager, and a smattering of locals, but everyone seems to be hiding something, and Leith is frustrated by a series of hurdles and roadblocks, made worse by Dion’s stumbling due to his brain injury. The landscape is of course, another character as the winter weather, the slick roads, and the ominous skies all contribute to the sense of foreboding and apprehension. Greenaway’s plot is at once straightforward and convoluted, with a number of subplots and clues, only a few of them red herrings, taking the reader in several directions. At one point, less than halfway through, I was certain we were solving the mystery and was surprised by the twists. The writing is generally strong; I enjoyed it to the end of more than 400 pages. I really enjoyed the characters, and look forward to the next installment featuring Bosco, Leith, and Dion, such different cops, at work on a new case.
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