Aug 13 2017 12:00pm

Review: Cold Snap by Allison Brennan

Cold Snap by Allison Brennan is the seventh Lucy Kincaid novel, where the Kincaid Family Christmas Reunion is threatened by murder.

I’m usually wary of novels that kick things off with forewords that explain a bit of what’s to follow and who’s involved. In the case of Allison Brennan’s Cold Snap, the foreword even gave an update on the lives of a dozen characters in the author’s Lucy Kincaid series. A few chapters later, I was glad for said foreword.

Brennan’s Kincaid series is a long, deep slice of police procedural fiction, and while those not familiar with the series can enjoy random novels from it, it’s better to approach the texts with some inkling of what’s happening and who the key players in the narrative are. While previous knowledge of the main character’s history, adventures, and motivations certainly enriches the reading experience, the series does not demand reading previous book in order to enjoy any of its novels. 

In Cold Snap, P.I. Patrick Kincaid is on his way to San Diego when he decides to first stop in San Francisco to check on a family friend that hasn’t been answering calls. Instead of a small detour, what Patrick finds is trouble and bullets heading his way—all before he can clarify why attorney Elle Santana refuses to ask the police for help in finding a missing girl.

While Patrick tries to do the right thing in San Francisco, Lucy Kincaid—who has been recently sworn in as an FBI Agent—wishes nothing more than to head home for the holidays. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. She’s stuck in a hotel in Denver with Sean, her boyfriend, and Patrick’s partner because of a blizzard that shut down the airports. And there’s a body to deal with. Meanwhile, back in San Diego, Colonel Kincaid, the family patriarch, is in the hospital, and a dangerous man with vengeance in mind will stop at nothing to get his way. 

Cold Snap is the seventh Lucy Kincaid book, and both fans of the series and those for whom this is their introduction to Brennan’s work will find much to enjoy here. Brennan masterfully juggles three narratives within the novel, and all three are packed with danger and tension. Coming in at almost 400 pages, this is a rich, complex, layered narrative that contains elements of mystery, a touch of noir, and family drama. Furthermore, despite the sprawling storylines, the action usually comes quick and in powerful bursts, which help the reader keep turning the pages: 

Immediately, Patrick grabbed Grayson’s gun hand at the same time Jack put a gun on the back of his head and his arm around Grayson’s neck. How Jack came that fast and quiet out of the back of the truck, through the same panel Grayson had used, Patrick didn’t know, but the timing was perfect.

There are plenty of tense moments, a few very violent episodes where blood is shed, and a constant sense of urgency that stems from the characters in all three narratives finding themselves running against the clock. Brennan deftly manages to keep all the storylines rolling with minimal descriptions, relying mostly on short, punchy dialogue, which helps the novel move forward at all times.

That being said, there is one shortcoming here: the seams between the different storylines are clearly visible. In a way, this reads more like a collection of novellas than a single novel. Despite that, the action and tension make up for it. This is especially true in passages where most authors would go on and on about the mayhem at hand. Instead, Brennan deals with situations—even the most dangerous and convoluted ones—with great economy of language: 

SWAT had one objective: rescue the hostages. They didn’t care, at this point, whether Sarah’s death was natural or murder. They only cared that no one lost their life. He had to trust them to protect Lucy, and trust Peterson when he told Carina that he wouldn’t hurt Lucy. But anything could happen—there were three innocent people in that room with his girlfriend, dozens of cops swarming the place, and a live bomb.

Readers love seasonal novels, and this one definitely fits in the holiday novel bracket. There’s cold, traveling issues, and a desire to go home that—while undeniably tied to the characters and their circumstances—also have a universal feel to them. However, fans of complex novels full of secret agendas, murder, and unexpected twists will enjoy this one regardless of the season. 

Listen to an audio excerpt from Cold Snap!


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Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. His reviews can be found in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Verbicide, Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, HorrorTalk, The Brooklyn Rail, and other venues. Iglesias is PANK Magazine's book reviews editor, Entropy Magazine's film/television editor, and a columnist for LitReactor and Clash Media. His novels include Gutmouth, Hungry Darkness, and Zero Saints. Find him on Twitter @Gabino_Iglesias

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