Cold Mourning by Brenda Chapman

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Series: Stonechild & Rouleau #1

Ebook, 392 pages

Published: February 10, 2014 (Dundurn) (1st published January 1, 2014)

Setting: Ottawa, Ontario

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Successful businessman Tom Underwood is murdered, a week before Christmas, leaving behind a troubled marriage, an ex-wife, an estranged son, and a loving, unhappily married daughter who is expecting her first child. Given the complicated dynamics of Tom’s family — plus problems at work — it is clear that there will be plenty of suspects.

Detective Jacques Rouleau, who heads a specialized Ottawa crime unit, struggles with departmental politics and the loss of his marriage. He and his new recruit, Kala Stonechild, quickly develop a rapport. They are both smart, dedicated detectives and they sense a common bond — they both carry a great deal of sadness and regret.

Kala, a native Canadian, grew up without family roots, the brutal legacy of the government’s campaign to eradicate Indian culture by forcing children into boarding schools. She has come to Ottawa seeking her “cousin” Rose. As children, Kala and Rose were bound together by loneliness and a horrific ordeal they survived together. Rose is still the closest thing to family Kala has.

Jacques, Kala, and the rest of the team are investigating Underwood’s death, trying to untangle a web of family bonds, conflicts, and old grievances. Kala — who prefers to go lone wolf — struggles with forming working relationships in the department. She faces prejudice due to her youth, gender, and race. The situation is further complicated by her attraction to Hunter, Tom Underwood’s estranged son.

This well-crafted, multi-layered mystery is beautifully written. It is a traditional “whodunit” in the best sense of the word — the author skillfully uses plot twists and red herrings to keep the reader guessing. Combined with interesting, engaging characters and a strong sense of place, this makes Cold Mourning absorbing and a delightfully good read.

This is enriched by the author’s artful use of descriptive detail. She uses just enough detail to bring the story to life without weighing it down.

I thoroughly enjoyed Cold Mourning, and the next book in this series — Butterfly Kills — is even better. I am excited about the third Stonechild and Rouleau novel, and this is likely to become one of my favorite mystery series.

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