Run Cold is the tenth installment in the Edna Ferber mysteries. This one takes her out of her New York society milieu to the rough-and-tumble life of Fairbanks, Alaska, where she is conducting another research trip for her novel Ice Palace, a novel exploring the forces for and against statehood for Alaska. Ice Palace came out in 1958, a year before Alaska became a state and may have played a role in moving people to support statehood.
The real-life Ferber made five trips to research Ice Palace and our fictional Ferber is on her last trip, renewing her friendship with Sonia Petrievich, a local newspaper columnist who writes about Alaskan history and heroes. Or anti-heroes as she seems infatuated with the violent recollections of Jack Mabie, “The Meanest Man in Alaska.” Edna is repulsed, not attracted, by his boasts of murder and mayhem. When he is reunited with his old partner in crime, murder follows.
Interestingly, the secondary characters in Run Cold mirror the characters in Ice Palace. There is the young woman, Sonia, whose heart is sought by Preston Strange, a man representing the anti-statehood, resource extraction Bayard Husack of Ice Palance. Then there is Noah West, who seems to represent Ross from Ice Palace, an indigenous man who wants to safeguard the environment and people of Alaska. However, unlike Christina in Ice Palance, our Sonia is murdered perhaps because she came too close to the truth. Both Preston and Noah are possible suspects, but then there are many suspects, though it sure seems as though the murderer wants to frame Noah. It’s up to Edna to find out who killed Sonia, and why, or there may be a grave injustice.
I like Edna Ferber. She’s a compassionate woman with good judgment and a discerning character. She has no love of violence and murder. Her writer’s nose for detail makes her an able amateur detective. Run Cold is a fair mystery and while there are plenty of red herrings to suspect, the resolution does not come out of thin air. I was, however, a bit disappointed with how slow Run Cold was to start. Like Edna, I was sick of Mabie’s boasting and do not know why we had to have so many conversations with the evil blowhard.
The mystery did not start until over a quarter of a way through the book. There are a few murders in quick succession, but then the conversations that are our “investigation” are repetitive, running over old ground time and again. The story is competent but thin, and it felt stretched to the breaking point, trying to make a three-course meal out of a good entree.
I received an e-galley of Run Cold from the publisher through NetGalley.