The Cold Nowhere: A Jonathan Stride Novel
I don’t think I realized how much I missed the Jonathan Stride series until THE COLD NOWHERE, the latest installment, released after a bit of an interlude. Stride is a tough, capable and fractured Duluth, Minnesota police detective who soldiers on despite the death of his first wife and the loss of his relationship with his lover, Serena, as the result of an unguarded choice he made in a weak moment. That decision --- an intimate relationship with Maggie, his police partner and friend --- is one he is still paying for as the book begins.
Indeed, it is the past that propels the narrative like a locomotive. Against all odds, author Brian Freeman made the unlikely locale of Duluth, Minnesota, a sordid hotbed of violent and illicit crime that bubbles beneath the gleam and shine of the downtown hotels and convention centers. So it is that when Stride finds a 16-year-old girl named Catalina Mateo in his home, it is a grim reminder of a prior failure circling back on him. Catalina --- wet, shivering and covered in blood --- is the daughter of a woman whom Stride promised to protect several years before. The results of his inability to do so are encapsulated in Catalina, who has bounced into and out of foster care, ultimately becoming a street prostitute.
"Freeman’s return to Duluth finds him once again at the top of his very considerable game.... Writing and storytelling don’t get much stronger than that, and thriller fiction doesn’t get much better than THE COLD NOWHERE."
Catalina tells a grim story of being pursued by an unknown man who has been attempting to kill her. Stride believes her, though he may be influenced somewhat by his failure to protect her mother and does not want history to repeat itself. Maggie, however, neither believes nor trusts the young woman, who brings with her a boatload of potential problems. As Stride investigates Catalina’s claims while trying to protect her, with Maggie reluctantly assisting, the trail of evidence they follow ultimately results in Serena’s return to Duluth, which ratchets up the tension of the investigation.
Meanwhile, the killer who has been pursuing Catalina exacts a grim price on the streets of Duluth. When Stride discovers a possible nexus between Catalina and a powerful local businessman and politician, Stride’s chief warns him off pursuing that avenue of investigation, an act that makes Stride all the more determined to continue to follow it. However, he has no idea how close the killer really is...or how close he may come to causing history to repeat itself.
Freeman’s return to Duluth finds him once again at the top of his very considerable game. Seemingly incapable of writing a bad paragraph, Freeman is a master storyteller who makes the ice and grit and grime of street life in Duluth materialize beneath the feet of the reader. I was tempted to drive there just to check out the graffiti graveyard where the grim climax takes place. Writing and storytelling don’t get much stronger than that, and thriller fiction doesn’t get much better than THE COLD NOWHERE.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 4, 2014