‘Cold Girl’ was a debut novel and the first book in what is now a six-book crime series by R. M. Greenaway. I picked it as one of the books for my ‘Cold Comfort Reads’ challenge because I wanted a book that would take me back to winter in the mountains. ‘Cold Girl’ certainly delivered on that, the story has a strong sense of place. I could feel the cold and sense the endless woods pressing in in the dark.
I found ‘Cold Girl’ to be a strange but compelling story. The story is framed around an RCMP investigation into the disappearance of a local woman in a rural BC town but it is written less as a whodunnit and more as an exploration of the character, motivations and limitation of two of the RCMP officers investigating the case and to display the lives of a small group of friends in their local habitat.
I loved the writing. R. M. Greenway has a gift for taking the reader right inside the main characters’ heads without dropping into the first person. After a couple of paragraphs of sharing a character’s thoughts, I had a clear view of who they are and some empathy for their situation.
She uses this talent mostly to take us inside the minds of the two investigators, neither of whom is typical. The RCMP lead, a detective called Leith, is convinced of his own mediocrity. He’s a plodder who knows he can’t see the big picture but who gets results by working the details rigorously. He has an ambition to move to a homicide unit in Vancouver but doubts that he has the political savvy to get there. Dion, one of the Constables assigned to help with the case, is not who he seems to be. Even he is not sure who he is anymore. He is recovering (probably recovering – he’s not sure how to tell) from a brain injury that has turned him from a hotshot detective to a man who has to take notes to remember the names of his colleagues but who still has moments of deep insight and an uncanny knack for ending up at the centre of things.
I enjoyed seeing the case from the eyes of these two men and seeing them misunderstand and clash with each other.
The secondary characters – police chief, an ambitious but ruthless local constable and band members from the missing woman’s band, are all well drawn. I felt as though I was meeting people not just suspects or plot devices.
The plot surprised me a few times. I didn’t see the ending coming but I believed in it when I got there. What I liked most was that the people powered the plot. This investment in the people meant that R. M. Greenaway could give a realistic portrayal of how much of a grind an investigation can be without becoming dull.
It looks as though future books also feature Leith and Dion, although, based on how the first book ended, I’m not entirely sure how that will come about. I’m going to read the next book in the series, ‘Undertow’ to find out.