‘Tis surprising but true. In the short space of two books, Rick Reed has moved onto my must-read list of authors. THE COLDEST FEAR, his sophomore effort in the fiction department, is the propelling force that has landed him there. It has everything you want in a thriller, a crime novel and a mystery: strong characters, plenty of gory story, witty dialogue, and a narrative that demands you keep turning those pages.
"Reed...gives the reader a genre story worth every minute and every penny spent."
THE COLDEST FEAR features the return of Evansville, Indiana homicide detective Jack Murphy, who was first introduced in 2010’s THE CRUELEST CUT. Murphy is a bit of a maverick, his saving grace being that he gets the job done. His partner in homicide, Liddell “Cajun” Blanchard, also known as “Bigfoot” and “Yeti,” functions as a bit of a straight man, so that the two often trade some light-hearted if occasionally inappropriate repartee at crime scenes, the police station, and all points in between.
And indeed there are many crime scenes. A young man who has been on a multi-state tour of slaughter and mayhem has returned home to settle scores with his family, and he makes his presence known quickly by committing two horrific murders in the first couple of chapters. A word of warning: Reed is stunningly imaginative and wonderfully descriptive. He can make your stomach flip upside down and sideways within the space of a sentence or two. I won’t give anything away, other than to say that you’ll never look at your bathtub drain while it’s doing its job in quite the same way again.
But Reed doesn’t rely upon the gruesome to propel his story. Instead he gives the reader a bit more information than the police have and just a little less than the killer has. The result is that we know early on who the killer is, but the fiend is hiding in plain sight as someone else. Murphy learns soon enough who he is, but it takes him and the state, local and federal boys and girls a while to discover his true identity.
In the meantime, the killer has developed a loathing for Murphy as well, and for a lawyer, a California enforcer, an early victim who doesn’t fit the profile at all, and just about everyone else who crosses his path. Let me just say after reading THE COLDEST FEAR that I may never again stop to help a stranded motorist. Or maybe even answer the front door. Reed can take the most mundane event and transform it into a thing of wondrous and bloody danger that you will not forget any time soon.
Throughout the book, Reed mines some of the same territory that John Sandford does, that being the rough camaraderie of men who by choice or circumstance are thrust into dangerous and unpleasant tasks. The colorful and often hilarious verbal chemistry between Murphy and Blanchard is line-by-line terrific, but is by no means the only reason to read the second installment in this fine series. While Reed is after the serial thriller audience, he never forgets for a moment that there is a mystery at the book’s core, and gives the reader a genre story worth every minute and every penny spent.