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Niven, John J - 'Cold Hands'
Hardback: 272 pages (Aug. 2012) Publisher: William Heinemann ISBN: 0434019577

Told in flashback, the book starts with Donnie Miller starting to write down the catastrophic events that brought his life in Canada with his wife Sammy, and son Walt to an end. Donnie is now living in Miami, and is recounting what happened as a kind of catharsis, on the advice of his therapist. About two years earlier, the Millers were living happily in Saskatchewan, Canada, in a large, architect-designed house out of town, with the nearest neighbour, Irene, half a mile away. Events begin with the death of the family dog, Herb. When the dog disappears, Donnie searches for it, after dropping Walt off to catch the school bus, and is shocked to find Herb's mutilated body, ripped apart, lying in the snow not far from the path leading to the bus. Had the dog been run over, or was this a deliberate attack by someone, and if so, why?

The hint that it may be deliberate comes from interspersed text and chapters that describe Donnie's life as a young boy in Scotland. In that previous life, he clearly had became involved with a nasty set of boys as a teenager at school, all of whom took pleasure in torturing both animals and people. This behaviour appears to have led up to an appalling incident, which landed Donnie in a young offenders' institution. It seems that there he was rehabilitated and able to move on with his life, eventually ending up in Canada.

The novel gradually reveals what happened back in Donnie's youth, and the repercussions that lead through to his current life in Canada, building up to a tense climax, where he is trying to defend his life and that of his young son. The identity of the perpetrator became obvious (to me at least) very quickly, and the plot was pretty predictable on the whole. It's a fairly short, easy to read book, that's pretty standard thriller fare, but with a few surprises thrown in. Not a bad book, but not particularly outstanding either. One for the beach perhaps.

Michelle Peckham, England
August 2012

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 9/08/2012 14:56