Monday, February 23, 2015

What we're reading: Topical thriller

I always find it so interesting how themes seem to present themselves to you in your reading right at the same time as those selfsame themes are presenting themselves somehow in your life...

I was looking for a book to read over the weekend, and picked up one by Tami Hoag. I run hot and cold on Tami Hoag's books (no pun intended about the title of this one): I absolutely loved Kill the Messenger, one of her early stand-alones, but almost every time I try to read one that is part of a series, I end up disappointed. Cold Cold Heart apparently bears some relation to previous books, but the connection was slight enough that I was able to read it without backtracking. And it was not a disappointment!

I didn't know it when I picked up the book, but in addition to being a compelling thriller, it is also an interesting exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I took particular note of that because we had an author visit last Wednesday night here at the Burbank Public Library by David J. Morris, author of The Evil Hours, which is a sort of hybrid autobiography and medical dissertation on PTSD. So if you attended that program and enjoyed it, you might like to follow it up with a fictional account of some of the issues discussed by Morris!

This book begins at the end of an ordeal for TV news anchor Dana Nolan, who has been kidnapped from a parking lot by a serial killer and has narrowly escaped death, although not before suffering extreme physical and psychological trauma at his hands. In the aftermath, as her body heals, she is plagued by nightmares and flashbacks, and finds it hard to readjust to living at home with her mother and stepfather in her small home town while she recuperates and builds a new life.

The media attention on Dana has reawakened an old story about her best friend, who disappeared from the town the summer after graduation from high school. Casey Grant's case was never solved, but as Dana attempts to reclaim her own memories (vague since her traumatic brain injury), she becomes obsessed with finding out the truth about what happened to Casey. Ironically, her initial prime suspect is Casey's old boyfriend, who is also a PTSD sufferer.

I liked that Hoag dealt with the issue of PTSD from two perspectives--one a veteran, the other not--because it highlights that it's not something suffered only by those who have been traumatized by war. She also did a great job of showing the issues that those surrounding the victim experience--family, friends, people with whom they come in contact as part of a daily routine (waitresses, traffic cops, etc.)--and how those people can help the sufferer (or not!).

Finally, Cold Cold Heart was a great whodunnit that pulled in a case and people from the past and tied them to the present-day events of the story with thrilling and chilling effect. My faith in Tami Hoag is restored!

This book can be found on the New Books shelves at all three branches, and we also offer it as an audiobook (sound recording) and an e-book.

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