Title: COLD DAY IN HELL
Publisher: Scribe Publications, Australia
Author: Richard Hawke
Edition released: April 2007
Genre: Crime Fiction
Reviewed by: Karen Chisholm
Fans of wise cracking, hard men with hearts of gold style Private Investigators are going to be very pleased to catch up with Fritz Malone in Richard Hawke's second book COLD DAY IN HELL.
Set in New York, COLD DAY IN HELL opens up with famous late-night TV star, Marshall Fox on trial for two grisly murders. Fritz Malone could care less about the trial, but when one of Fox's former lovers is murdered in her apartment using a signature piece from the first two murders, Malone gets interested. Firstly because this killing is just across the street from Malone's girlfriend Margo, and secondly because he knew Robin Burrell was scared - she'd spoken to him twice about threats she had been receiving.
The NYPD were convinced that Fox was the guilty party in the first two murders, but Malone finds himself teamed up with them trying to work out if the Burrell killing is a copycat, or is the wrong man on trial. Digging around in Fox's past discovers an unexpected secret life for this down home, happy go lucky cowboy figure.
COLD DAY IN HELL is set, obviously, in New York, and Malone is a very New York - been there, done that, seen it all - lone wolf type of guy, with just enough contacts on the dark side to do what has to be done. His relationship with Margo is long-term but they rub up against each other, just like many other long-term couples. Whilst Malone is very much the wise cracking PI with a conscience and a heart of gold, luckily that characterisation stops just short of being sanctimonious and is no where near as cliched and, frankly, annoying, as it can be.
The book uses an interesting 3 act kind of layout, with the central act going back to the lead up to the murders after a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of the first act. That method worked in this example, raising the temperature whilst you wondered what the outcome of the cliff hanger would be, and keeping the pace of the book moving whilst filling in the back story. The inclusion of NYPD officers spread the focus. In particular Megan Lamb, just returned to duty after the murder of her life partner, she's struggling with the guilt and her mixed feelings about killing Helen's murderer. This gave the whole story less of a self-involved, self-obsessed, Private Investigator against the world feeling and added another level of interest and, whilst Megan is, in her own way self-obsessed and self-involved, the reasons for that are different / more reflective.
Whilst not normally being much of a fan of that lone wolf style of PI, in COLD DAY IN HELL, it worked. Sure there's a lot of rushing around waving guns in the air, which bores this reader rigid, but the character of Fritz is just human enough to be interesting, the layout of the book was unusual and thus engaging, and the inclusion of focus on people other than just Fritz opened the whole story out, creating an interesting, enjoyable book.