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Book: “The Book of Cold Cases” by Simone St. James
Publishing Info: Berkley, March 2022
Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.
Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound
Book Description: In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, 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 she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.
Oregon, 2017. Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases–a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. 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 the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?
A true crime blogger gets more than she bargained for while interviewing the woman acquitted of two cold case slayings in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Sun Down Motel.
Review: I am now at the point in my librarian and blogging career that I lose titles that I would normally be super into amongst the books that I want to read. Whether it’s for blog purposes or keeping my RA skills up, I am always looking for books to add to the pile, and then others tend to shuffle through long past their release date. This is what happened with “The Book of Cold Cases” by Simone St. James, and author that I generally like and would normally be putting on my radar earlier than a few months past the release date. Well thank you, Book of the Month Club, because had you not had this book as a selection of that month I probably would have ended up on a hold list and then not gotten to this book until much later. Which would have been a bummer, because “The Book of Cold Cases” combines true crime blogger themes with a 1970s murder case that scandalized a town, as well as a perhaps supernatural presence within the accused murderess’s house. All things that I’m super into.
The story is told through the perspectives of present day Shea, true crime obsessive due to her processing (or not processing) of her own traumatic incident in her past, and past Beth, an accused murderer who was acquitted and who is more than the media and the community sees her as. When Shea meets Beth randomly and asks to interview her for her armchair sleuthing blog, Beth surprises her with a ‘yes’, and then Shea starts to investigate the Lady Killer Murders that Beth seemingly got away with. I liked seeing Shea go on her own investigation and how it is supplemented by the slow reveals of Beth’s past as we see what she was going through during the scrutiny and police investigation/trial back in the 1970s. It’s a device we’ve seen before but St. James does it well. We slowly get more and more information about both women and what their motivations are, and they are both interesting and complex enough that I was invested in finding out what Beth was hiding, and if Shea was going to find herself in trouble as she starts to unravel it all. I found Shea especially fascinating as a character, as while it may have been easy to just paint her as a true crime weirdo, St. James instead brings her own victimization into the formula and makes it less a morbid hobby and more of a coping mechanism (and honestly, I think that for a number of true crime fans there is a bit of anxiety processing and trauma processing that goes into the fascination with the genre). And as for Beth, I liked how St. James picks apart misogyny of the media and society when it comes to the portrayals of women in crime cases like this.
Though there were some things that didn’t really work for me. The problem is, I can’t really talk too much about them here without going into serious spoiler territory. What I will say is that we get a device about half way through the story that made it a bit less interesting for me, as it makes Beth a little less interesting as a whole. And the other issue is that, like other Simone St. James books, there is an element of the supernatural here. I generally like how St. James incorporates ghost stories into her books, and it isn’t that I didn’t like it here, because I did. I think that the problem is that in this story it didn’t really feel like it was needed, and because of that it felt a bit forced into it. It doesn’t make it any less suspenseful, and I still tore through this book over the course of two days. But this time around it may not have been necessary to have that element to it.
At the end of the day, I was supremely entertained by “The Book of Cold Cases”! It’s summer now, and I do think that this would be a great beach or cabin read. It may even send a chill up your spine on a hot summer day.
Rating 7: Though some of the plot choices didn’t hit as hard for me, overall Simone St. James once again puts together a twisted and suspenseful horror-thriller story that I couldn’t put down!
“The Book of Cold Cases” is included on the Goodreads lists “2022 Horror Novels Written By Women and Non-Binary Femmes”, and “The Most Anticipated Mysteries and Thrillers of 2022”.