- Simone St. James
- Author of The Sun Down Motel
- 341 pages
- Dual POV
- Haunted House
- Small Town
No one would ever believe a small-town woman could be a murderer in 1977, let alone a serial killer. And then, there’s Beth Greer.
Shaken by two seemingly random murders, the town of Claire Lake, Oregon needs someone to blame. Who would bring such terrible violence into a safe, small town like Claire Lake? That’s why Beth Greer is the perfect suspect. She’s pretty, rich, a bit unconventional, and young. At just twenty-three, she’s the perfect scapegoat and the town is sure she had to do it. After all, she was seen fleeing one of the crime scenes. But when Beth is acquitted, it seems the murders will go unsolved, and the town will have no one will to blame.
Shea Collins is a waiting room receptionist by day and a true-crime blogger by night. A lifetime Claire Lake resident and an escaped child abductee herself, The Lady Killer murders are one of her favorite unsolved cases. When Beth Greer walks into Shea’s waiting room, she almost doesn’t recognize her at first—until she does. Excited by the possibility of meeting a real-life crime celebrity, Shea follows Greer out of the office and asks her for an exclusive interview. To her surprise, Greer says yes.
Meeting regularly at Beth’s mansion at the edge of town, Shea and Beth begin an unlikely companionship as they begin to unravel the most popular crime case the town of Claire Lake has ever seen. Shea realizes the house has uncannily stayed the same since the 1970s and she’s sure there is a reason why.
As the two explore their different stories and go back in time to visit the Lady Killer murders, Shea learns the truth about the unchanging mansion, the danger lurking in the dark, and the real reason nothing has changed since 1977.
- 2.5/5 Stars
Let me start off by saying that I loved The Broken Girls by Simone St. James. When I saw that Book of The Month had The Book of Cold Cases on early release, I immediately added it to my box. I was excited to read this book for a variety of reasons. I love St. James’ ability to combine both ghosts and murder mysteries. Her character development skills are always incredible and really engage the reader. Most of all, I love St. James’ quick-witted surprise moments that really make her books so easy to fall in love with. Those little moments make me want to sit and read the entirety of her books in one sitting.
When I picked up The Book of Cold Cases, this is exactly what I was expecting. Yet, I find this novel fell a little flat for me, especially after reading some of St. James’ other stories.
I do think that this particular book is all about character development. While I love a good murder mystery, the story isn’t the main aspect of this novel—it’s Beth and Shea. The two characters rely on each other to grow, and without each other? They’re stuck. This presents an interesting dilemma since, as a murder mystery, the plotline is usually the foremost part of the novel. While I enjoyed watching Shea grow into a multi-dimensional character facing her anxieties, I can’t understand why she would connect with Beth in the first place given how intense her fears are. Shea had every opportunity to confront her fears on her own—she is surrounded by people who have tried to support her, and at every turn, she chooses to put up a wall between them. The connection between Shea and Beth is certainly fascinating, if not only for this specific reason.
Yet, Beth’s character develops because of Shea, as well. Beth needs someone to release her from a lifetime of guilt and secret-keeping and Shea does exactly that. It’s almost as if the two characters are using each other for their mutual benefit, though not necessarily in a good way. I’m not entirely sure that Beth and Shea are a good influence on each other, and perhaps that is what St. James wants the reader to get from this story.
As far as the plotline goes, it’s difficult not to spoil the ending (don’t worry, I won’t), as St. James gives away the killer’s identity at barely halfway through. This bothered me to no end. Though the book seemingly is more about Shea and Beth’s story than the killer’s story, it is still important to have that aspect of conflict later on in the novel. Once we get the killer’s information, there’s not much left but to ask why? Since we already know why the killer chooses to murder at the halfway point, the question isn’t why the killer is who they are, but instead why Beth chooses to tell the story now. The resulting answer to this question isn’t exactly a surprise considering where Shea and Beth met.
I love a good murder mystery—especially one that includes ghosts. Simone St. James has written stories that I loved, but I’m not entirely sure The Book of Cold Cases did it for me. I would have loved to see the killer’s identity revealed later on than halfway through this novel. I do understand why this book was written in the succession it was…yet it didn’t leave much for the reader after the halfway point. I can definitely see this book being one that readers struggle to finish.
While I love St. James as an author, and I will continue to support her work, The Book of Cold Cases was a bit of a flop, in my perspective. There are certain aspects of it that read well, and I admire what St. James hoped to accomplish with character development, but there were just too many definitive answers in a book that should have had more questions.
If you’ve already read this novel, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If not, go ahead and check it out on Amazon here.
Not sure what to read next? Check out our most recent book review, Circe by Madeline Miller.