In Frozen by Kate Watterson, detective Ellie MacIntosh hunts a killer of women through the Wisconsin winter (available December 24, 2012).
Three women have disappeared from a small town in northern Wisconsin and it’s up to Detective Ellie MacIntosh to find them. Unfortunately, the person taking these women leaves behind no clues. Cars are found empty, with no trace fibers or fingerprints. The women are not seen or heard from again. For seventeen months the investigation remains at a standstill while families worry and Ellie grows more and more frustrated.
Frozen, the new novel by Kate Watterson, presents northern Wisconsin in a shivery new light. Here the characters navigate a harsh landscape—both internally and externally. Detective Ellie MacIntosh is determined to find the man taking these women. In order to figure out his game, she has to survive the inhospitable environment of a snowy Wisconsin season and discover just what role a handsome semi-local plays in the whole tangle. Is he just an innocent guy up for a vacation? Is he an unlikely ally? Or is he something much, much worse?
Ellie MacIntosh has stayed up some late nights trying to get a break in the missing women’s cases. The women disappear so completely that the officers working the case aren’t even sure that all of the cases are related. Ellie, however, is certain they’re connected:
Resigned to the fact she wasn’t going to go to sleep anytime soon, Ellie got up and went to the kitchen. It was neat and shining, but she absently wiped off the countertop anyway as she waited for the electric kettle to heat up. When the light flashed on, she brewed a cup of tea and went back into the dining room. She sat down, took a sip from her cup, and began to go over the cases in her mind, or case, as she thought of it, because she was sure they were all connected.
Or pretty sure. She was methodical about investigations and that was part of the problem with this case. Forcing the round peg into the square hole instead of going with her gut like she wanted to, which had told her from the beginning that they had a very, very serious problem and the enemy was…canny.
But there are no breaks—none, zero, zilch—in a year and a half.
Enter Bryce Grantham.
Bryce is presented in the opening chapter as a likeable, kinda socially awkward guy. He’s good looking, smart, has a certain shyness about him. He is everything that women want to date. He’s trustworthy enough for a woman he’s just met to ask him for a ride home:
By the time Melissa emerged from the bar again, ten minutes had passed. Instead of heading to her vehicle, she opened the passenger side of his car and slipped into the seat. A cell phone was pressed to her ear, but she flipped it shut with an unhappy sigh.
“I had to leave a message,” she explained, her eyes luminous in the semigloom. “Can I ask you to possibly give me a ride home? It’s only about ten minutes from here.”
“Sure.” Though he had absolutely no objection, he was a little startled. He was, after all, a stranger.
He’s the last person to see Melissa, before she too disappears. When Melissa leaves her cell phone in Bryce’s car, he decides to be a good guy and return it. He finds her shoe outside her cabin. Then he finds her other shoe yards away. He calls the cops—and calls attention to himself. And not in a good way.
To make matters worse, he then finds the body of one of the other missing women.
MacIntosh is too sharp a detective to let so many coincidences go unquestioned. With her partner, Rick, they take the only avenue clear to them and investigate Bryce.
Watterson makes the reader question everything and everyone. The cast of characters is small—which makes the pool of suspects and victims tight. Watterson increases the suspect pool with the opening of every chapter. The perpetrator, who thinks of himself as The Hunter, gets the first word before each scene. The juxtaposition of The Hunter’s thought process to the individual chapter’s POV character leaves the reader thinking “This person could be the killer.” Then you read the next chapter and you’re convinced, “No, it’s this guy.” It changes every chapter, almost subconsciously. The effect is…well…effective.
Frozen is a solid novel with a distinct cast of characters, a dangerous and deceptive environment, and a very believable setup for violence. Watterson’s presentation is straightforward, which makes for a quick reading experience. The description of the weather alone makes you wish for nothing but a warm bed and some hot chocolate. Read it next to a roaring fire…or at least beneath an electric blanket.
Find out more or buy a copy of Frozen by Kate Watterson:
Jenny Maloney is a reader and writer in Colorado. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 42 Magazine, Shimmer, Skive, and others. She blogs about writing at Notes from Under Ground. If you like to talk books, reading, publishing, movies, or writing feel free to follow her on Twitter: @JennyEMaloney.