Cold Cold Heart
"She should have been dead. After everything he put her through, she should have been dead hours before." These are the chilling opening lines from the Prologue to COLD COLD HEART by Tami Hoag. The "she" of the piece is Dana Nolan, a television newscaster in Minneapolis, well on her way to bigger venues. Until now. The monster who is "tagged Doc Holiday" is responsible for at least seven murdered women, and Dana would have been his eighth had she not gotten lucky.
Dana was a beautiful, smart, in-control news commentator before her run-in with Holiday. She loved her job, had many friends among her peers, and liked living the life of a single woman in a relatively big city. Then one night, on her way to the studio, she is kidnapped, raped repeatedly, tortured, brain damaged, psychologically damaged and physically deformed. She will never be "before Dana" again. Now only "after Dana" exists on the periphery of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, suspicion, paranoia and cold fear.
"The characters are sharply drawn, and the plot is fast-moving. The "mystery" parts are just as engaging as the thriller portions. The edges of each are closely aligned, which push the narrative forward, thus making for terrific reading."
Ironically, "Dana had no organic memory of the man who abducted and tortured her." Her mind was clear of any images of the perpetrator, and she didn't want to know what he looked like. But this didn't stop her from using the Internet to research him and find out that he had been crossing the Midwest under many different aliases, killing women for years. He carved the number nine on Dana's chest, but the cops in many states knew that he had killed more.
Add to this the fact that Dana's best friend has been missing for seven years. She vanished without a trace, and Dana feels duty-bound to launch an investigation parallel to the police's. As far as the cops are concerned, this is a cold case that probably will never be solved. However, "[i]f Casey had been her inspiration to pursue a career in journalism, then Casey's story should have remained important to her." But in her zeal to build her career and reputation, that case was left on the backburner.
After leaving the hospital and rehab center, she went home to live with her mother and stepfather, who was a state senator, running a close campaign. Her mother was overprotective, and Roger was annoyed at the inconvenience of having a "freak" living in his house. Dana could not be fooled by phony Roger's lukewarm attempts to reach out to her. Casey went to their house the day she disappeared, and Roger was home with a supposed migraine. Should he be looked into as a suspect?
In addition to the media circus, people staring at her because of her disfigurement, the political heat and the demons in her head, Dana did not need to meet up with her old boyfriend from high school, Tim Carver, who is now a deputy, and John Vitalle, Casey's boyfriend. Tim flunked out of West Point and came home, while John left town to go to war and came back a broken man suffering from PTSD. The latter lives his own nightmare with his evil father. The drama this adds to the story is fascinating and well done. Hoag seamlessly brings these men into the fray without missing a beat.
Girls continue to disappear and turn up dead as the narrative unfolds. Readers are forced to think about this town in terms of "death land." The characters are sharply drawn, and the plot is fast-moving. The "mystery" parts are just as engaging as the thriller portions. The edges of each are closely aligned, which push the narrative forward, thus making for terrific reading. Fans of and newcomers to Tami Hoag will find themselves fully satisfied with COLD COLD HEART.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 16, 2015