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From Barnes & NobleIn this, the eighth Alan Gregory thriller, the Colorado-based clinical psychologist and his wife, Boulder Assistant District Attorney Lauren Crowder, are asked to assist a private organization known as Locard. Comprised of former and current prosecutors, federal law enforcement agents, and forensic specialists, the group (named after the legendary 19th-century French detective Edmond Locard) specializes in providing assistance to local police in solving "cold cases," i. e., unsolved cases that have been open for an especially long time.
In this instance, Locard is investigating the murder of teenagers Tamara Franklin and Mariko Hamamoto, two close friends who disappeared from their homes in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, one cold November evening in 1988. The girls' bodies were discovered a few months later when the springtime thaw melted the snowbank in which their killer had hidden their corpses. Because the bodies had been mutilated (Tami's body was found sans a hand, Mariko's was missing the toes of one foot), local police sought an opportunistic killer, either a serial killer or a drifter, an approach that proved unsuccessful.
Asked to perform a "psychological autopsy," Gregory conducts interviews with several people connected to the case, including the girls' parents, siblings, and friends. His inquiries also bring him into contact with Mariko's psychologist, Dr. Raymond Welle. Welle has also known tragedy: Four years after the girls' disappearance, Welle's wife Gloria was apparently murdered by another of his patients, the severely depressed Brian Sample. The crime drew national headlines and propelled Welle into the public eye, first gaining him a syndicated talk show, then a Senate seat. Suspecting that Welle knows more about the case than he lets on, Gregory doggedly pursues the Senator.
Gregory's odyssey into the past affects him in varying ways. Of course, there's the thrill of the hunt, the intellectual challenge, and the satisfaction of bringing a criminal to justice. But that's not all, as Gregory becomes involved on a very personal level. His many interviews bring home a hard fact to the psychologist, namely that human beings inflict great damage on each other every day. He's reminded that murder has a ripple effect, irrevocably changing the lives of both survivors and victims. Gregory's personal life is also impacted by the investigation, as he becomes the target of forces anxious to conceal the truth. Touchingly, his thoughts in moments of peril always turn to his pregnant wife, and how he now has even more to live for than before.
If I had to choose one word to describe this novel, that word would be intimate, in the sense that the reader's involvement in the narrative increases as Gregory digs deeper in his search for the truth. Of course, White pays a lot of attention to Gregory and Lauren Crowder; after eight novels, they feel like old friends. But White also lavishes a great deal of attention on the rest of his cast -- supporting characters are given sufficient substance to keep them interesting, from Kimber Lister, the somewhat pompous, agoraphobic leader of Locard, to family friend A. J. Simes, a retired FBI psychologist who, like Crowder, suffers from multiple sclerosis.
That's not to say that everything's perfect, however. For instance, the answer to the riddle Gregory faces is so complex that, once the perpetrators are revealed, it takes page upon page of exposition to explain their actions and motivations, causing one to wonder why they don't just shoot Gregory and be done with it. This is only a minor criticism, however, rendered inconsequential by the air of intimacy and immediacy White creates. Cold Case is an arresting, exciting piece of work, the perfect way to while away some cold winter nights.