When a prisoner is shot to death in the exercise yard of a Saskatchewan penitentiary, Joanne Kilbourn finds herself haunted by a part of her past she wished had never happened. The dead prisoner is Kevin Tarpley, the man who six years earlier had brutally killed her politician husband, Ian, in a seemingly senseless act alongside the TransCanada Highway.
The haunting takes on a more menacing cast several days later when Tarpley's sinister wife, Maureen, is discovered dead in a snow-swept Regina parking lot. A brightly colored scarf is found wound tightly around her neck, a scarf that belongs to none other than Joanne Kilbourn. Soon this single mother, author, university professor, and TV-show panelist is deemed the number-one suspect in Maureen Tarpley's demise.
Joanne knows there has to be a connection between these two murders. But what is it? A cryptic letter sent to Joanne by Kevin Tarpley just days before his death intimates that Ian Kilbourn's killing may not have been as senseless as first assumed. In fact there are hints that some of Ian's political colleagues may have been involved. But how deeply and in what way?
Then there's the faded photograph of a pretty young woman and her baby that Joanne finds tucked in the wallet of her dead husband. Does it offer any clue to Ian's murder or to the deaths of the Tarpleys? Warily, Joanne Kilbourn is forced to follow a tangled trail deep into a heartbreaking past she never knew existed.
A Colder Kind of Death is the fourth novel featuring Gail Bowen's reluctant sleuth, Joanne Kilbourn. With its deft mix of wry humor and mayhem, closely observed family scenes and gripping suspense, warm characterization and betrayal, it confirms Gail Bowen's stature as one of the greats of mystery fiction.
Lisa Bunting is perfect as the narrator of this well woven story. So enjoy Gail Bowen's writing.
Note: While this is Book 4 in the series, it works mostly well as a stand alone. There are definitely some character backstories that I was a bit muddled on, but in regards to the main plot, they dd not matter.
Set in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, Joanne Kilbourn is a parent, a professor, a TV panelist, and a widow. Now her past comes back to her with the news that Kevin Tarpley, the man who killed her husband, Ian, six years ago, was shot to death in the exercise yard of a Saskatchewan prison. Odd as that is, it pales in comparison to the unexpected photo of a young mother with her baby in Ian’s old wallet. Then Maureen, Kevin’s wife, shows up for cocktail drinks at one of Joanne’s local haunts and ends up dead. Joanne starts digging into her husband’s past in order to unravel her current mystery.
I can see why this series is so popular! I really enjoyed this Canadian mystery. Joanne is a very interesting character with her multiple professions and her single parenting skills. Toss in the 6-year-old case of her husband’s murder with the recent death of Maureen, and you have quite the engaging story. Joanne was really caught in this balancing act – does she ask the questions and possibly dig up hurtful information or does she let things lie and cherish the memories of the husband she knew?
Even though Maureen ends up dead in the first quarter of the book, I found her character rather seductive. She obviously has quite the ego on her. Even after her demise, we continue to learn about her as Joanne digs into the past. Maureen indeed was quite the little manipulator, but Joanne has to figure out why and to what ends.
Then there is that odd photo in her husband’s old wallet. Was this a secret lover of his? His baby? I really felt for Joanne as she struggled with what to do over the photo. Should she dig into it, hoping that there was some benign reason he had this photo? Or should she let things lie, maintaining the memory of her husband? This aspect of the story really shows Joanne in a very human light as she has some ungracious thoughts about her dead husband.
The story builds cleverly upon itself as one clue after another is dragged into the light. However, they don’t all appear to be part of the same puzzle. Joanne struggles to connect them all and it’s not until near the end that things become clear. There’s also some drama at the end as the real killer feels trapped and out of choices. It was a real spin up with a final, rather messy ending. Joanne will need therapy. I was so caught up in this book, I listened to it all in one day. I plan to go back to Book 1 and enjoy the rest of the series in sequential order to get the most out of it.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox.
Narration: Lisa Bunting was a really good pick as narrator. She was the perfect Joanne in my head. I liked her male and female character voices, as well as her regional accents. While I’m no expert on Canadian Native American accents, I can say that Bunting’s performance matched my experience with Native American accents here in New Mexico. I also liked her kid voices for the various kids in Joanne’s household.