Pros: Chilling, thrilling, and blood-stirring
Cons: Some genre standard elements, but they’re handled very well
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review book (uncorrected proof) courtesy of the author
Expected release date: July 5, 2011
Olivia Wainwright, daughter of wealthy and influential parents, hasn’t had such a perfect life. A kidnapping-turned-violent when she was young left her with the unwanted ability to relive the last two minutes and ten seconds of a person’s life simply by touching their remains. She’s found she can use this ability to help catch murderers when no other means will do, but she never uses it unless she absolutely has to. Because each time she does, she dies a little more inside.
Savannah detective Gabe Cooper is working a cold case: a set of remains found in the wall of a burned-out building. Olivia can’t help but get involved, as she suspects the body may be linked to her own kidnapping. Convincing Gabe to let her help, however, will be another matter; like most people, he thinks her so-called psychic abilities are a crock. Still, despite his disbelief, he can’t get the strong-willed, gentle woman off of his mind. He just needs to decide whether he can let go of everything he’s ever believed in order to solve his case and have a chance at love.
Leslie Parrish’s Cold Touch is the second book in her “Extrasensory Agents” series. The books are serialized enough that you don’t need to have read Cold Sight first, although I highly recommend doing so (it’s a wonderful book!). The premise is enjoyable enough: a detective agency employs a handful of psychics of various types, and bills itself as “eXtreme Investigations.” Naturally the police think they’re a bunch of kooks and don’t want to have anything to do with them.
The thing is, their gifts aren’t so hokey. They aren’t sweetness-and-light “hey, I’m having a vision” sorts of things. And Olivia’s may be the darkest of all. She can touch a person’s remains and immediately experience the last two minutes and ten seconds of their life. Since most victims who need her “expertise” were victims of violent death, this means she’s lived through horror after horror. She’s been shot, stabbed over and over, beaten to death. She’s fallen off of buildings. She’s experienced every ounce of pain that these people have, and it’s all still inside of her. Each death is just a little harder for her to come back from, but this is all she has. Her “gift” sets her apart from everyone; either they don’t believe her, or they’re repulsed by the morbid nature of her visions.
Olivia and Gabe click immediately, but he’s incredibly frustrated to find out that she believes herself to be psychic. The thing is, events keep conspiring to make her abilities seem more and more believable. And he may well need her help if he wants to find out who could have abused a child so terribly—and who might even now have another child locked away and in danger.
I love the characters in Cold Touch. Gabe’s skepticism and annoyance are natural and understandable, and aren’t amped up to create artificial tension between the main characters. The developing relationship between him and Olivia is sweet and sexy, not the stereotypical thriller/romance plot in which the leads immediately develop the raging hots for each other—but don’t let that make you think that things aren’t sizzling or sexy! The side characters also have some fun depth to them, such as Gabe’s partner Ty, Olivia’s younger sister, and Olivia’s parents.
The mystery is dark and engrossing—I could hardly put the book down yesterday. It’s also grim in places; this isn’t a happy-shiny mystery or romance, so if that’s what you prefer, you might want to read something else. Cold Touch strikes the perfect note for a dark serial killer mystery. I even had a few moments while reading part of it at a coffee shop where I had to chase away a few tears.