Review of Cold Trace by Entrada Reviews

A tense, exciting thriller

The opening of DV Chernov’s Cold Trace calls to mind Raymond Chandler’s old advice: “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.” The explosive mystery of the prologue gives way to a more ordinary scene, introducing police officer Nick, whose small-town concerns disappear in a few words: “State troopers found a body.” He leaves his favorite diner to investigate Pine Lake’s first death in two years.

But the ID on the body only raises more questions. Who was Tyler Wilcox, twenty-six, and how did his body end up dumped by the overpass? All signs point to foul play – and, worse, it’s not even his real identity, with the real Tyler surprised to learn of his apparent death. Nick’s quiet life in Pine Lake is in tatters, and it’s the mystery of this John Doe that drives much of the story.

But as Nick’s partner Claire observes, thinking about the different names she’s worn over the years,
“Identity is such an odd concept. We are given one when we are born. We have no choice in it, but we are expected to keep it for the rest of our lives. That seems so arbitrary. That arbitrary label stays the same while we don’t—we grow, we change our appearance, we change our jobs. We even shed our old skin cells and grow new ones. After a few years, what is there left of the original you? And yet, here you are—Nick Severs. But who is Nick Severs? A
cop? A teacher? A little boy with a skinned knee?”

Claire, we learn, knows a thing or two about identity and change. Her own story lacks the immediate drama of finding a dead body, but her chapters are no less intense. She and Nick work opposite hours, and her role as caretaker for her aging mother is complicated by their fraught past.

For his part, Nick can’t deny that he’s changed over the years, but all the same, there’s a part of him that takes a certain satisfaction in an identity thief who can’t outrun karma – a satisfaction that’s quickly extinguished when the autopsy report can’t conclusively determine the cause of death. Worse still, he’s got a name for the Doe when a match on the Missing Persons index reveals that this case is far stranger than he could have imagined, each new revelation only raising further questions. How did a 20-year-old missing persons case end up dead on the freeway?

A small-town mystery that’s quickly revealed to be much more than it seems, Cold Trace is a compelling entry to the Nick Severs series that’s sure to delight new and old fans alike.

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