Deborah Biancotti's Reviews > Cold Justice

Cold Justice by Katherine Howell
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's review
Dec 26, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: writer-women, aww2012, oz

Wow, Howell is a masterful storyteller. Her writing is sharp, her action is clear, and her clever interweaving of conversation and clues with active, energetic scenes makes this book almost cinematic.

I did have a hard time separating the multitude of characters - there are at least 6 point of view characters & every one of them comes with a full background of lovers/friends/family/enemies. Chapters are assigned arbitrarily across the characters (& the years) so that you never get more than a few pages of any one character. Which is good if you're not particularly interested in that character. But is also bad, because - strictly imho - multiple points of view (POVs) can make for a choppy reading experience & serve to slow down the action, often spinning us into another internal monologue or a personal circumstance or a small repetition when we really just want to know what the hell was happening with this cold case under investigation. (There are 2 too many paramedic call-outs for me, for instance.)

I admit I cared less about some characters than others. Georgie, for instance, with her penchant for ringing 'home' to hear her menagerie of animals ('gods,' I remember thinking, 'i hope the animals don't end up with bloody point of view sections'). And Freya - despite absorbing most of my interest during the book - did have a rather repetitive habit of announcing "nobody knows anything, howcouldthey!" to some shady character who ends up, somewhat tenuously, with a position in her life again. And I admit many of the male characters (Matt/Wayne/James) merged into one.

Some of the journeys were tough to witness, & Howell charts them with compassion & a humane insight. Freya is one particularly good example of this, & I wished I could have had one final section from her point of view to see how she was *feeling* by the time the book's events had unfolded around her. Others, like Georgie, struck me as having a lot less to do or achieve - though apparently this book is one in a series, & so perhaps I'd be more interested if I'd read about Georgie & her animals in an earlier book. Detective Ella Marconi does stirling work at somewhat of a personal cost & I would love to read more of her.

But best of all: the ending, rather than feeling kind of tacked onto the end as it often can in some thrillers, was convincing and satisfying. The prose was efficient & never self-conscious & the Sydney detail was free of sentimentality. Katharine Howell is one of our great thriller writers.
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