Female NYPD trainee Julian Palmer has come to a frigid corner of Upstate New York to work alongside legendary police chief Winston "Bear" Edwards-to help solve the brutal murder of a young waitress, and perhaps learn a thing or two along the way.
Julian knows that Edwards, an Old School cop if there ever were one, isn't happy about a female rookie assisting him-or the strange local psychic they've called in to help. Still, she's a bit in awe of the old Bear-he has, after all, solved every murder case he's ever worked on. Except this one.
Now, as Julian and Edwards investigate, they are thrust into a labyrinthine mystery, where endless twists and turns keep the case as compelling as it is elusive. And as the snow continues to fall on rural New York, hiding everything beneath a glistening white blanket, it might also cover up the only thing that will solve this case: The Cold Truth...
About the Author
Jonathan Stone is a graduate of Yale University, where he was a Scholar of the House in Fiction Writing and twice won the English Department's John Hubbard Curtis Prize for Best Imaginative Writing. He works in advertising and lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children. The Cold Truth is his first novel.
Jonathan Stone, author of the Julian Palmer novels, is a graduate of Yale University, where he was a Scholar of the House in Fiction Writing and twice won the English Department's John Hubbard Curtis Prize for Best Imaginative Writing. He works in advertising and lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children.
Read an Excerpt
"Christalfuckingmighty!" he bellowed, when he finally looked up from the cluttered desk and saw Julian Palmer.
All six foot four and 260 pounds of Canaanville Chief of Police Winston "Bear" Edwards stood up in a rage, scooped up the resumé in his bear-paw hands and scowled at it through his bifocals, crumpling the corners aggressively as he read. "Jesus F. Christ. Doesn't say it anywhere on here, does it?!" he accused.
Julian had expected something like this.
"Jesus F. Christ." Winston Edwards collapsed heavily into the scarred and ancient chair, and Julian watched his rage ebb visibly until, stunned and disappointed, even a little forlorn, he cocked his ursine head slightly and checked the incomprehensible fact again. "Julian. Julian Palmer."
"Fooled me, didn't ya?" he said irritably.
"Fooled me good. How 'bout that."
He dangled the resume precariously, waiting for it — hoping for it, it seemed — to slip from between his immense fingers, and disappear somehow.
"Figured if I knew it, old coot like me, I'd eliminate you. Even if you were the most qualified. Which you are."
Julian remained silent.
He shook his head. Then slowly, threateningly, leaned his massive torso forward. His face loomed, mottled, craggy. "Pulled this before, have we?" Julian eyed him evenly. "Never had to."
Winston Edwards regarded Julian silently.
"A woman," he said finally — flat, factual, expressionless.
"So it would appear."
Edwards settled back in his ancient chair. The cracked and scarred leather of its arms was indicative of police duty as long and illustrious as his own. "I'll be frank," said Edwards. "And I guess this ain't exactly news to you. I don't much believe in women in police work."
I've entered the Pleistocene, Julian thought. I've gone Mesozoic.
Edwards stared down at the resumé wordlessly for what seemed an eternity. Julian listened to the metronomic click of the ceiling fan. She scanned the hastily labeled vertical brown file cases behind the Chiefs ancient scarred chair, the chaotic paperwork piled on top of the files.
Every police-station cliché seemed to be covered, she thought. It looked like nothing had changed — or had even been moved — in decades.
Edwards looked up and stared straight at her for another eternity. The dinosaur chewed ruminatively, regarding her with limpid brown eyes empty of expression and yet infinitely capable of it, it seemed.
"I'd never have said yes to this whole Associate thing, which I was reluctant about anyway ..." His voice rose, on the pain of remembering, it seemed, a whole chain of events. " ... but you are, after all, the one I picked." He smiled grimly. "I rarely get fooled like this anymore."
He leaned back farther, settled the back of his head into some invisible, familiar notch in the ridged leather of the ancient chair. "Thirty years at it, see, you learn a thing or two." He studied her for a moment. She shifted uncomfortably. He waved his bear-paw hand vaguely in her direction.
"I know, for instance, the entire contents of your shiny new briefcase there. Contains only a few more copies of this very impressive resumé" — he held it up again, shook it again — "and one yellow legal pad, because of the nasty habits you've picked up in this course here," pointing to Criminal Law on the resume.
He looked up at her. "I know you got your hair cut just yesterday ... the evenness of your bangs.
"And I know that the suit you're wearing, fresh-looking though it is, is an old one. Cuffs rolled under to make it fit." He cocked his head and now waved his big bear-paw more specifically at her suit.
He studied her eyes with an almost optometric interest. "And I also know ... well ..." He stopped, waved his hand dismissively.
"What?" she said.
"Nothing." He shook his head.
He looked at her, still interested in her eyes. "I also know you masturbated this morning."
In that instant both saw it; both heard it: the arch of her tan body on the hotel bed. The familiar, final piercing cry.
But Julian didn't flinch.
"Eyes clear, no blood around the pupils," Edwards explained.
A lesson already, she thought.
"Relieving a little tension for the big interview," he said, with as much genuine understanding as sarcasm, she noticed.
"What makes you so sure I was alone?" she asked, unruffled.
He smiled bleakly. "'Cause I know Canaanville."
"There's no there there," her classmates had warned. "Fucking Arctic Circle. Sure, a legend. But Jesus. Ends of the earth. Time doesn't stand still? Hah! You'll see."
Julian shifted, sat up. She looked at him. "This is a remarkable interview," she observed coolly.
"You're a remarkable woman," he said, waving the resume by a corner again. "You deserve a remarkable interview."
He tilted up just slightly in the chair. "Shall we open the briefcase, see how I did?" he asked.
"No, you're correct," she said curtly.
She was silent.
He tilted back again, approaching horizontal. "But you see, for all my little tricks of thirty years' experience, I didn't know you were a woman."
He shook his head and smiled at her, and Julian detected something broadly in the neighborhood of affection.
"I could simply say no, the candidate was not right for us." He leaned back farther. She was surprised the ancient chair went back that far. It seemed a successful defiance of the laws of gravity.
And other laws? Did he defy them as easily?
"Hell, I could even say the candidate was a woman, and I don't want a woman in the job, and what are they gonna do, move up my retirement a few weeks? Which is upcoming, as I assume you were told.
"Tell you what I'll do, though. Give you a chance to prove an old dog wrong. A little test."
"Oh, now relax. Simple test. Much simpler test, I'm sure, than anything they had you doing here," he said, dangling the resumé once again, taunting. "See, all you've got to do in this test, is turn around."
Julian looked at him.
"Go ahead," he said genially, grandfatherly, "just turn around."
Entering Chief Edwards' office in her newly resurrected trim blue suit, quickly adjusting its hem, checking with a quick touch the clips in her coal-black hair, facing the famously irascible, and immense and backward and brilliant, Winston "Bear" Edwards for the first time, scanning the administrative chaos behind him while Edwards hunched over the resume, Julian Palmer had never had the opportunity to notice the wall of Edwards' office behind her.
She looked at it now.
The head was far from the torso. Not so much severed as hacked at the neck into separateness. The torso no longer qualified as such: it was a spaghetti of flesh, a soup of organs, a jumble of bone. Sluices of blood and ligament flowed and seeped from the ribboned openings. The limbs bent in on themselves cartoonishly. The breasts were simply gone — in contrast to the head, cut cleanly off as if with surgical precision, leaving only rough, red-and-brown saucers where they had been. The eyes had been gouged; the nose and lips had been cut off, were missing, as if this were a manufactured doll, sent back now in pieces for impossible repairs ... .
The layman would say bomb-blast victim. But Julian knew that the most powerful bomb blast would not have done this degree of damage.
Nor would some crazed animal.
She knew immediately, with the lightning judgment that was a credit to and the pride of her forensics instructors, that this damage could only have been inflicted one way — by a human with a knife.
In numerous eight-by-ten and sixteen-by-twenty black-and-white photographs arrayed on the glass-partition wall of Chief Edwards' office, Julian Palmer took in, in a visual gulp, the most brutal murder she had ever seen.
She had seen, of course, a hundred throughout her schooling, and had studied them for evidence as dispassionately as if they were high-school science projects. She would even calculate later that in her training, she had probably seen more than Edwards, who, after all, didn't deal with them on a day-to-day basis. But this one still took the record for brutality.
Her intake of breath apparently went unnoticed by the Chief, behind her.
"Simms outside — lanky fella who showed you in — he was puking all morning when he saw these. Miz Palmer" — Winston Edwards said the Miz as sarcastically as possible — "you're hired. If you still want it, that is." The Great Chief Edwards extended his bear-paw hand. "Welcome."
And as for his earlier remarks on her preinterview activity, when both had accurately summoned up the familiar gymnastic ... arching, screaming ... Well, mentioning it made it a moment of intimacy.
And the intimacy was, after all, simultaneous.
And you can't ask more of good partners than that.
In its infinitely suspect wisdom, the Great State of New York, with much fanfare, had instituted the Advanced Associates Internship Program just two years earlier. With equally dubious wisdom, it would eliminate the program just a year and a half later — a victim of shifting political breezes, the periodic cries of austerity, and legislators otherwise occupied and distracted.
The Advanced Associates Internship, in short, was one of those high-minded, well-intentioned, ill-conceived, and short-lived efforts that state legislators specialize in, which they initially tout highly and rally around; and then abandon, moving restlessly, reflexively, to the next problem, tackling it with some other high-minded program, to be similarly abandoned at some point hence.
The idea was to give police trainees a completely different police experience from the one they likely would know for the remainder of their professional lives: give the city trainee thevastly more generalized, subtler, and broader experience of rural police work; give the rural trainee the highly specialized, highly paced experience of city police work. (In truth, the program's main purpose was to provide big-city training to the rural recruit. Let him take new techniques back into the woods with him and, with any luck, begin to insinuate them into places still in the forensic dark.) New York was one of the few places that could confer the ultimate in both experiences — the thickest of the city, the farthest of upcountry — and that certainly was part of the program's initial fanfare and appeal.
But the program's origins, its politics, and its ultimate fate were far from Julian Palmer's mind, nowhere in her purview, as she read the brochure and quizzed the kindly, elderly half-informed Special Programs police counselor.
She was, in fact, thinking about snow.
She had never seen it. Not real snow. Oh sure, pictures of it. And of course, the cursory coating of the New York City streets around the Academy a few times, there for a moment, a blink, then plowed up and shoved aside and crusted with dirt by the time she got downstairs in the morning. (New York's one utterly reliable efficiency, as far as she could tell.) And afternoon flurries that filled the sky with promise but, upon hitting the pavement, disappeared, turning into slush, melting into the ceaselessness of the city. So she had never really felt it, experienced it fully, looked out on a world of it. And while she knew that this would be a good thing for the resume, and that this Winston Edwards was considered a major police talent, the snow was no small part of the appeal.
She smiled, amused to find herself thinking about it. Deep feet of it. A field of it. Fluffy, icy-cool, vivid at the edge of her imagination, and now, in every sense, within her grasp. Because her request (you could request a specific region — that was part of the bait) could put her squarely in it.
The Snow Belt, they called it. A narrow geographic band from east of the Great Lakes at the Canadian border to just north of Pittsburgh. A surprisingly narrow geographical swath where geothermal and topographical conditions conspired to produce an inordinate amount of the stuff.
Colder places got less. Higher elevations got less. The Snow Belt got hammered, blanketed in white silence, then blanketed and blanketed again.
There was something about that white blanket that captivated her....
It seemed like a way of forgetting. A way of softly covering everything up. Of starting anew. A way she hadn't tried. And though she only half admitted it to herself, only half recognized it, that was what fascinated her about snow most of all.
What it could bury. What it could cover. What it could silence. What it could do, a season in the cleansing cold.
And then — in the next instant — she was thinking about the program, its possibilities. Ever-practical, she had given the snow its thought, its due, and moved on to think about what she needed to. Focused. Sharp. Trained.
She couldn't know, of course, that what would happen to her up there in the snow would hasten the end of the Advanced Associates Internship Program; would account for at least one angry speech on the legislature floor; would contribute powerfully to the sour taste in the legislature's mouth ... For now, it was that snow, the vision of it, alluring, beckoning, wondrous, cool, that compelled her to take pen in hand in the tiny office of the Special Programs counselor, and swiftly, eagerly, competently, fill out the application.
A closer inspection of the Canaanville station house the following morning revealed that it was not quite the archaic movie set it had first appeared. Beneath an assortment of files there was a fax machine. Beneath an inexplicable collection of neatly folded plastic bags there was even a personal computer. It was as if the patina of ceiling fans and dust and wooden chairs hid the workings of a reasonably efficient office of criminal investigation.
Not unlike the exterior of its gruff leader, Julian reflected.
"So how'd you like the pictures?" Julian heard suddenly behind her, and she spun around, startled, and instinctively, to find Simms, mildly leering, unmildly gap-toothed, and standing inappropriately close beside her, Julian noticed, like an upcountry in-bred idiot, or, come to think of it, a petty bureaucrat now in the safe employ of New York State.
Julian shrugged noncommittally.
"That's how he's always done it," Simms said, fairly glowing with pride over his superior and encyclopedic knowledge of the famous ways of the Chief. "Puts 'em up on wall, stares at 'em, broods and sulks and stares 'em down some more, and then one day, lo and behold, he's got the solution. Pretty bizarre, huh?"
Julian saw that Simms' last sentence was not merely rhetorical. He was actually waiting for a reply. And in an instant she could tell years' worth of office politics: that Simms and the others found the Chief and his methods exceedingly strange, and that they wanted Julian to find him strange also. Simms, she suddenly knew, was the emissary. Where did she stand?
She didn't want to offend them, but she didn't want them to place her in the wrong camp.
So she smiled. She smiled broadly, affectionately, winningly, a smile she'd called on plenty.
I know what you mean, that smile said.
You poor slobs don't know a police talent when you see one, the smile said.
The choice was theirs.
"What you are looking at, Miz Julian Palmer," said Chief Edwards, gesturing to the brutal pictures again, "is another matter — more serious than that of your gender — in which, it would seem, my thirty years' experience are failing me." He slurped the coffee as if it were life itself, and then, after having gulped half a cup, paused to smell it, as if checking it well after the fact for acceptability — or poison — before continuing. "Let me give you her resume. A bit less impressive perhaps, and a whole lot briefer, than yours. Sarah Langley. Twenty-one. Waitress. Single. Lived alone on Southside."
Which Julian knew already, from her quick self-tour aroundthe town the night before. Every older city, small or large, had its blighted section, it seemed, its cancerous cluster that police officers, like crude physicians, sought to contain, in vague worry over a rampant spreading. In a city like Canaanville, that was itself blighted, its "poorer" section was poorer than most.
Excerpted from "The Cold Truth"
Copyright © 1999 Jonathan Stone.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
Fast Furious, mazey and gothic, with a solution as chilling as an upstate New York winter. This is prime entertainment.
Ian Rankin, Gold Dagger-winning author of Black and Blue and The Hanging Garden
A spooky winner. This shiver delivers.
Leslie Glass, nationally best-selling author of Judging Time
Jonathan Stone's The Cold Truth is a strong debut. It's smart, fast, and light on its feet. Stone has a gift for the whodunit, and he takes delight in spinning heads, playing with our emotions and our intellects, surprising us. I enjoyed The Cold Truth--it's clever, bold, and a little nasty.
T. Jefferson Parker, best-selling author of Laguna Heat
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I believed the hype and read this book, but was sorely disappointed. First of all, it is NOT a police procedural. In fact, these are the dumbest and most inept cops I have ever seen. We get no feeling for the daily routine of the police force in town. They conduct no interviews, gather no evidence, do no research of any kind on the murder. We get no information on the victim's life, friends, family, daily routine, or interactions with the town. THe book is basically a psychological love story with a murder thrown in. The characters are interesting but they lack depth. There are some interesting plot twists but the murderer is broadcast way too early. A pet peeve: This book is short, less than 300 pages, but is broken down into more than 30 chapters. Some are as short as 3 pages. While some readers may enjoy this fast style, I don't. It's too choppy, and no mood or tempo is ever set. Each chapter is a single scene and the whole books is disjointed. Another 100 pages or so of good detail on the town, the police and its investigation, really would make a very strong novel. OVERALL I would recommend this book perhaps for a plane trip for a quick escapist read. Maybe Stone's second book will be better.
This cannily constructed thriller is driven by sharply drawn, compelling characters and a rocketing plot, propelled by taut, lean prose. Stone packs in enough possibilities, twists, and suspects (and the novel has echoes of the film 'The Usual Suspects') for at least several novels, but it's delivered with clarity, precision, and cool assurance. Readers will finish this book with grim pleasure and satisfaction, look up and wonder where the time went--and then look forward to Stone's next book, where several familiar faces will gratifyingly reappear.
An ok read, somewhat hard to follow
The book overall wasn't too bad, but the ending wasn't to my liking. The setting was great. A small town, snow falling all the time and a gruesome murder to be solved. The book could have been much better.