Book Review: Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear

Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear is the sequel to the internationally bestselling Sweet Little Lies and the second novel featuring DC Cat Kinsella—an investigator “on par with Susie Steiner’s and Tana French’s female detectives” (Kirkus, starred review).

In Stone Cold Heart, the sequel to Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear, Cat Kinsella has returned to the Metropolitan Police after a stint in the mayor’s office. She is still shadowed by the events in the previous book but has little time to ponder them. Shortly after her return to the police—and to her old partner, Parnell—a young woman is found murdered after a party at her new boss’s house. A recent transplant from Australia, Naomi had not been in the UK for long and had only recently begun her job. Cat is immediately affected by this young woman’s death.

My first thought is that whatever she was paying, it was definitely too much, because, while it’s spotless and tidy and furnished with all the basics you’d expect to see—a wardrobe, a bed, a bedside table and a desk—the bed’s a lousy single, the wardrobe’s missing one door and there’s a thick wedge of cardboard propping up the not-quite-level desk.

 

The bedside table’s pretty though. Cheap but ornate. Odds on, she bought that herself.

 

So she’d tried to make it homely, habitable at least, and I’m not sure if it’s the sparkly sunshine-print duvet or the Mickey Mouse ears pinned high above the bed that gets me, but there’s a lump in my throat that’s proving hard to dissolve.

So who could have murdered this girl? Suspicion immediately falls on her roommate, a young man named Kieran Drake. He has a record but also a solid alibi—a three-day bender in Houndslea.

Attention then turns to the attendees at the party Naomi attended before her death, most specifically her boss, Kirstie; Kirstie’s husband, Marcus; his sister, Rachel; and her husband, Joseph. Kirstie claims she had not even known Naomi didn’t come into work.

“I worked from home on Monday, I wasn’t feeling too great.” Direct to me. “Trust me, give it another ten years and you’ll know all about the two-day hangover.” Turning back to Parnell, she says, “Anyway, I emailed Naomi saying not to disturb me unless it was urgent and when I heard nothing back, I assumed she’d taken me literally and didn’t think too much about it.”

Cat realizes she knows Joseph, the brother-in-law. He is a barista who works in a coffeehouse right around the corner from the police station. He had spoken to her previously about his crazy wife, ostensibly to ask for legal help.

He pauses, clearing his throat. “Well, it’s all a bit awkward, and honestly, I’m so sorry to trouble you with it, but it’s about my wife. She’s been acting rather … well, odd.”

Cat senses a vibe with this man that concerns her. “His grin, [she thinks], makes my organs shiver.” She begins to focus on him. As the police dig deeper, Cat meets the wife who lives in an apartment with multiple locks and bolts on the door and who always wears long sleeves. And Joseph, a multiple philanderer, has no alibi at all. But Rachel continues to defend her husband. She knows he is innocent, she claims. But Rachel has secrets of her own.

Cat knows about secrets; she is keeping several. Secrets from her fellow police officers, secrets about her family that would probably cost her her job if they came out.

. . . I’m a real stickler for the rules.”

 

Which is a statement beyond parody given the lies I’ve told. The lines I’ve crossed.

 

But hey, I’ve never claimed to be the world’s most honourable police officer.

The plotting is excellent, and the twisty ending reveals a very surprising murderer. It is not necessary to have read the previous book to enjoy this one; it stands alone with enough back story included to fill in the blanks. But my favorite part is the characters, most particularly Cat herself, who comes across as a flawed but fully formed human being. And the ending promises another entry in this very fine series.

Read Kristin Centorcelli’s review of the first Cat Kinsella novel, Sweet Little Lies!

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