Friday, August 8, 2014

Death served cold

The Frozen Dead

By Bernard Minier


Publisher: Minotaur Book

Pub. Date: August 12, 2014

Rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 5 stars


Bernard Minier's complex novel The Frozen Dead is a page turner. Its mystery starts with the grotesque murder of a horse and proceeds to a number of other murders of the human variety that seem to be connected. It is the job of Minier's stubborn detective Servaz and his team to place all of the clues together As you might imagine, Servaz is not necessarily thrilled to be assigned a killing of a horse as a homicide case but since the horse was the favorite steed of rich industrialist Lombard, he is pretty much stuck with it. Then the DNA of a infamous serial killer is found on the horse's corpse and he becomes very interested. The problem is that the serial killer is locked up in a nearby institution for the criminally insane and there is no way he could have escaped. Switch over to Diane, a psychology student who just started working at the same institution. She quickly becomes suspicious of some of the staff and the footprints of people wandering at night does not alleviate those concerns.

The Frozen Dead continues with these two narratives, switching from one to the other. Yet Diane's viewpoint is second fiddle to Servaz's and we spend most of the time "watching the detective", to quote a song by Elvis Costello. This is a wise move since Martin Servaz is easily the most dimensional and interesting character in the book. He comes with his own baggage and a heightened sense of perception that rivals those of other fictional detectives. For the most part this is a riveting two-thirds of a novel. Yet at that point there develops too many false leads and too many coincidences to justify the somewhat disappointing conclusion. In a way Bernard Minier may be the French Harlan Coben in that he starts out like gangbusters and then pulls together too many improbable events at the end to warrant the "suspension of disbelief" that is often necessary in a good thriller. However he does have a gift for description that really puts the reader into the time and place of the story.

Overall, this is a nice introduction to a writer that has all the skills and hooks to become an exceptional mystery author. Despite a not-so-exceptional ending, I do recommend this novel and advise that you keep an eye out for this author in the future.

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