Review: “Cold Hollow,” Emilie J. Howard

Pros: It could have been worse–maybe?
Cons: Where should I start?
Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Emilie J. Howard’s Cold Hollow (Cold Hollow Mysteries Book 1) is listed under horror on Amazon, but I’m not sure why. Her townspeople’s greatest fear is that they won’t have the money for the mayor’s protection racket and his police goons will come after them. The first part of the plot involves our standard happy innocent couple moving into our standard trouble-filled New England town. Then this ceases to be a horror novel. The baker wife opens an amazing bakery. The townspeople are weird. The bad guys are icky. When the bad guys collide with the baker and her family, things go badly. Then Myrna, baker Sophia’s friend and employee, opens a clever can of whoop-ass on the town. I won’t detail any of that last, nor will I tell you whether things go well or badly for her, because hey, spoilers. But I don’t think it would really ruin the book for you, because there isn’t much to be ruined.


Everybody’s terrified of this mysterious, bizarre-sounding “till”. It’s nothing but an itemized (!) monthly protection racket bill handed out by the mayor and enforced by his goon policemen. I mean sure, knowing you have to bankrupt yourself rather than get beaten up or killed or whatever is scary, but it really doesn’t classify as horror.

The worst part of Cold Hollow is that most of the narrative is exposition and summary. Everything is told to us; almost nothing is shown to us. Even the dialogue is just summary of speech most of the time, and sounds like it was written by a teen who hasn’t had any instruction in the craft part of writing. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book as prone to that as this one is. There’s a death scene that becomes frankly embarrassing because of this.

There are so many foolish things the characters do with no consequence. If Nazar, the bad guy, has cameras and bugs in every house, then destroying those just lets him know you’re on to him–yet there are no consequences as gradually people start doing this over time. There’s a scene where a doctor gives Myrna drugs to put in people’s foods and: “He didn’t want to tell her exactly what drugs were being used. That way, if things didn’t work out, she could never be blamed.” Uhh, that’s not how the law works, people.

It feels like the author is a teenager–way too much exposition; childlike narrative; childish view of how the law might look and work. I can’t recommend this to anyone.


The town does hold a secret, but it’s basically the plot from a Criminal Minds episode that’s been dumbed-down and made ridiculous. Spoiler warning: It’s a town of parolees being run as an experiment, but unlike the town on CM, this one was screwed up from day one. Also, apparently if you take a couple who had been in jail for kidnapping children because they wanted to feel that they had a full family, it’s okay later to let them get that out of their system by having them babysit your kid. Say what?! End spoiler warning

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