Kate Pepper’s ONE COLD NIGHT is a book about the potential of loss, the very real fear that assaults a family when their child goes missing. The sometimes unbearable tension stems from this one fact, so if you can’t stand child-in-distress novels, then stay away. But if you love television shows like WITHOUT A TRACE, then this is the perfect book for you. Because Pepper walks us through the disappearance, providing a relevant timeline, and she allows her police force to do some very thorough detective work, all leading up to the confusing – and slightly unbelievable – climax. Just like the show.
The best part of this NIGHT is that the law enforcement officers act rationally. When Strauss, who is a Brooklyn detective, learns an unusual fact about the victim, he doesn’t hold it to his chest in fear that someone might think he’s crazy (an all-too-common device in mediocre mysteries), but he goes and tells the freakin’ cops because that’s what he should do! So that scene alone puts a positive spin on this tale.
And the rest of the positive spin comes from Pepper’s suspenseful writing style. You’re never exactly sure where things are going to go with the story, and she has a very creepy way of making you think the worst is about to happen. And sometimes, it does. But there’s also a level of hope and optimism in Pepper’s writing that places her above the tedious doom- and gloom-mongers.
The problem here is that the plot becomes slightly unwieldy. There are good moments and good scenes that Pepper does her best to explore, but the end result is one heck of a convoluted situation. Thankfully, the reader doesn’t care, because this really isn’t a whodunit, but a gottafindherquick. ONE COLD NIGHT is one of those fast-paced weekend reads, with some wonderful law enforcement characters (I’d rather see more of Lupe Ramos and Alexei Bruno than the main characters, the Strausses), a great common-man deconstruction of Nabokov’s LOLITA, and – at its core – a heart that cares about the people within its pages. –Mark Rose