Cold Mourning is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Stonechild and Rouleau by Brenda Chapman, a Canadian author who lives in Ottawa. It was the second book I’d read by Brenda and I recommend you read them in order unless, like me, you intend to rush out after turning the last page and buy all the previous books because you absolutely must have the background and must have it now.
Cold Mourning is set in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and detective Stonechild is a new addition to a special task force who has two things working against her when she arrives to join her team: she’s a woman and she’s native. The head of her team, Rouleau, is on her side and is the kind of detective who will back her up and evaluate fairly. Not every member of her team is willing to do that.
The Prologue gives a rather eerie beginning as two young native girls, tired from a trek to town, accept a lift from a stranger who turns out to be a racist pervert. It is a long way into the story before the significance of this episode becomes apparent.
Wealthy wheeler dealer Tom Underwood, unhappy with his second wife, estranged from his son, and despised by his son-in-law, disappears after the staff Christmas party just a few days before Christmas. Is it a business deal gone sour? Or one of his family members or associates hoping to benefit from his demise? Stonechild uncovers layer upon layer of secrets, hidden jealousies, infidelities, and many motives for revenge. Previously operating as a lone wolf on a fairly quiet reserve, Kala Stonechild has to work hard to make a fit with her partner and avoid the cynicism and racism of a fellow team member. She is missing her dog (left with a friend until she gets settled), trying to track down an old friend in trouble, and attempting to prove her own and her team’s worth against stacked odds.
While I enjoyed this story immensely — I started it in bed and finished it by morning — I found there to be an awful lot of truly evil men in it. Hopefully this is an unrealistic demographic. The characters of Stonechild and Rouleau are completely engaging. The settings are bang on and it was a pleasure to read about hometown locations for a change. The empathy Stonechild feels for suspects and homeless characters who come in and out of the story, and the complexity of character and plot make for a riveting read. I highly recommend this series but suggest you read the books in order. * * * *
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