St. Martin's, Dec 2001, 23.95, 272 pp.
In Hampstead, Kansas, this winter's weather is so brutally arctic that old timers believe it is the coldest ever. Police chief Susan Wren prays that the adverse weather keeps major crime down to zero because half of her staff suffers from the flue (non-blue variety).
However, her hopes are quickly dashed when furnace repairer Tim Holiday is found burned beyond recognition in Calley James' basement. The police find identification in the victim's pocket, but no one seems to know anything about the man. Calley's ex-husband Matt was seen arguing with the victim and it is soon learned he had an affair with the man's wife twelve years ago. Tim's real name is Bran. He was just released from prison on a technicality though he was convicted of killing his wife. Susan wants to know why he moved to the same city as the person who betrayed him.
Charlene Weir provides a cast of characters that seem so genuine that readers will feel familiarity with the ensemble. The mystery is well executed with plenty of suspects and everyone having a reason for wanting the victim dead. The independent heroine displays humor and strength, but has the innate ability to know when someone lies to her. A COLD CHRISTMAS is a warm police procedural.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner