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Dead of Winter    by P. J. Parrish order for
Dead of Winter
by P. J. Parrish
Order:  USA  Can
Pinnacle, 2001

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Young Detective Louis Kincaid has applied for a job in the 'winter wonderland' tourist town of Loon Lake, Michigan. He drives there in his rusting and unreliable old convertible, hoping to settle down and forget the horrors of his last position in Black Pool, Mississippi (described in Dark of the Moon). He gets the job but, of course, more than he bargained for when he ends up in the middle of a murder investigation, in which a killer has targeted ... the Loon Lake police.

This mystery has all the usual elements that make for success: an unusual and convoluted plot, interesting people, a touch of romance, and lots of surprises. What I especially enjoyed about it was the protagonist himself. Though Kincaid is an experienced officer, he is not the seasoned and cynical veteran that the genre usually gives us. This is a young man who has doubts, personal and professional. I found that refreshing.

Kincaid's early life has not been easy. Raised in a series of foster homes, he was lucky to end up with a couple that he could respect, in particular his foster father Phillip Lawrence. He faced distrust and racism in his earlier job in Black Pool, but does not carry a chip on his shoulder. He tries to act with integrity and that sometimes puts him at odds with his peers and his boss.

Parrish portrays many interesting characters in this story, in particular Kincaid's new Chief, the enigmatic martinet Gibralter, who quotes Baudelaire and discusses chess gambits during a job interview. The authors slowly reveal how all these people's past histories affect their present actions and responses, while denying that past abuse can excuse present violence. It's an absorbing novel and Kincaid a credible and engaging hero whom I hope to encounter again.

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