If you enjoy a mystery story full of red herrings, stalwart characters, an exotic Alaskan setting coupled with enough twists and turns to titillate the most ardent armchair sleuth, COLD COMPANY by Sue Henry is just the ticket.
Jessie Arnold is a well-known "dog musher" who was the target of a serial arsonist who destroyed her home in Henry's earlier book, BENEATH THE ASHES. Now with work under way to rebuild her lost log cabin, she finds a skeleton in the dig. Along with the male bones, investigators find a butterfly necklace purported to belong to a young woman who disappeared more than 20 years ago. Could her bones be buried near this body? Could Jessie's land be another burial site used by serial killer Robert Hansen, who was convicted of 17 murders and is now spending his waning days in prison?
This theory is ruled out almost immediately when the bodies of two recently murdered women are found in close proximity to the construction site. Everyone involved in the investigation agrees that a copycat killer is on the loose…but who and why? After all, in the small, claustrophobic towns of rural Alaska, neighbors and workers are friends who know each other. Or do they?
If these unnerving events aren't enough to jangle the nerves of ever independent Jessie Arnold, she also begins to receive anonymous gifts in the form of a single rose left first on her doorstep and then in her kitchen. At first, she thinks they may be a surprise from her former lover but then realizes that their break, while painful, was permanent. So, who is trespassing on her property and invading her most private space?
As all of the book's events unfold, the Alaskan summer solstice slowly melts away toward winter; Jessie and her friends are convinced that they are on the trail of a different serial murderer. They wend their way along wilderness trails that lead deep into heavy forest cover to emerge slipping and sliding over the icy glacial terrain that surrounds their part of the world.
Sue Henry is an adept storyteller. In Jessie Arnold she has created a prototype of a single, independent, self-supporting and intelligent but stubborn woman, who always wants things her way. But Jessie is not hard or cold hearted. She is has the courage to reexamine and reevaluate her opinions, behaviors, strengths, and vulnerabilities without compromising her integrity. These characteristics save Henry's protagonist from being a stereotype and rescue her tales from banality.
COLD COMPANY is a fast paced read, perfect for a hot summer day.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on June 4, 2002