Review: The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Summary: In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men were murdered with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect–a rich, eccentric twenty-three-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted and retreated to isolation of her.

Oregon, 2017. Shea Collins runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes. They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a murderer, or are there other dangers lurking?

Genre: mystery, thriller
Rating: ★★★

At this point, I don’t think anyone would be shocked to learn that I’m a true crime fan. So despite Shea and I having nothing in common, it was easy for me to understand her excitement when an alleged murderer strolled into her office one morning. Beth might have been acquitted of her alleged crimes, but that didn’t make her any less intriguing. Much like Shea, I couldn’t wait to discover the truth behind the murders. And knowing this was another hit from Simone St. James, whose stories I’ve adored so far, I flew through this book.

As I mentioned, Shea wasn’t an easy character for me to relate to, simply because we had nothing in common. However, it was easy to sympathize with her considering her history: She was abducted as a child and still hasn’t gotten over it; she’s recently divorced and learning to live as her own person again; she works in a mediocre job that doesn’t really make her happy. So Shea does what any rational person would do: she creates a true crime blog. Honestly, this was the most interesting part of Shea’s entire personality to me, and I was a little disappointed that we never got to see any of the pieces she wrote. It was noted plenty of times how her blog was a big success, and her interview with Beth essentially changed her life and revived her, so I wish we’d be able to see more of that.

And then there’s Beth. It was hard for me to envision Beth in her current state and age; I tended to imagine her as the sultry, beautiful, mysterious 23 year old that was accused of the murders of two men. Beth, who was hardened by a difficult and strange childhood, cold to the police and press when interviewed. This story is split into both Shea and Beth’s perspectives, also alternating a current timeline and that of 1977, with events leading up to the murders. Beth’s chapters during that time frame were the most interesting to read. She was a complete enigma, even after the entire truth was revealed.

The biggest reason for not rating this book higher than three stars is due to the big reveal. I didn’t necessarily find it predictable, but about halfway through the story the truth is given to us. I wasn’t sure what could possibly happen in the last 100 pages, and I was hoping for even more crazy twists. I even found myself predicting some insane ones that didn’t really make any sense, just because I was confused by the amount of story left. Instead, the last 100 pages essentially wrapped up the big reveal in minute detail, even repeating some scenes from slightly different perspectives. I was bored by that, because while the “twist” was good and needed some background, I felt that it dragged on for too long and all suspense was gone.

One other piece of this story that bothered me was the haunted house aspect. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the idea of the house being haunted. Beth felt forced to remain in the mansion all those years, and if she tried to change the house or remove anything from it, she found the house exactly as it had been. Cupboard doors open, water faucets pour blood into bathroom sinks, there’s an illusion of a girl in the yard, and whispers and strange noises are often heard at night. The house being haunted was almost as interesting of a story as Beth’s and Shea’s.

However, once the story was more fleshed out, I found myself not enjoying the paranormal aspect anymore. Shea was able to find a solid, scientific solution to everything else that happened in this story, which made the haunted house feel out of place. I found myself questioning whether the house was really haunted or not (Was Beth even more sinister than we could have imagined and was playing tricks on Shea to scare her? Was someone from the past still alive and living in the house?). I would have accepted a logical explanation for the house based on how the rest of the story played out, and I wish the tone of the story was set up for the haunted house to be more believable.

Despite my feelings on the story, I know it will be a huge success when it comes out tomorrow!

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