I finished reading Barry Jones’ Cold Dinner by John Schlarbaum a couple months ago and just knew that I had to share this book with others. I met Schlarbaum at a book signing at a local bookstore. I hadn’t known there was a book signing – I was simply there doing some Christmas shopping and there he was. I had been trying to find the perfect gift for my mom and he was there, presenting a new murder mystery (Mom’s favourite genre!). Once he began talking about the book, I became instantly intrigued and I knew Mom would be as well. She would get a kick out of the fact that it was written by a Canadian author (something she doesn’t always see a lot of now that she lives in Arkansas) and especially by the fact that the story was set in West Lorne, Ontario, a town not far from where she and I had once lived and where we had spent quite a bit of time. The fact that Schlarbaum was such a congenial fellow and that I could not only get her the book but get it autographed completely sold me. From our brief conversation, I could see that he was caring and articulate and I hoped that he would be as good a writer as he was at engaging strangers in interesting conversation. I was not disappointed.
When I got the book home, it sat there waiting to be wrapped and I became more and more interested in reading it myself. I acquired a copy for myself and soon, when I was taking care of some household chores and decided to reward myself with a break, I crawled into bed to read a chapter or two of this book. Some twelve or thirteen hours later, I was still sitting in my bed, having just finished the book. It was THAT good! There is no way that once I was introduced to the complex, fascinating main character Steve Cassidy, that I could then just go back to my chores. I absolutely had to keep reading to find out how things turned out for him! This story is enthralling. It draws the readers in immediately with the flawed yet likable hero in Steve Cassidy. Once introduced to Steve, we are immediately thrown into the mystery of Barry Jones’ disappearance, a case that seems to be anything but routine. As the story unfolds, the case becomes more and more intricate and the reader becomes more hooked. This novel is not a lightweight when it comes to establishing a true mystery; it’s not one of those plots where the clues are laid out so deliberately that the solution becomes clear very quickly to any observant reader. No, this mystery is truly like a web of ever more interesting clues, leaving the reader anxious to know where it will lead next and how all these clues will finally fit together to reveal the true picture.
One of the things that adds realism to the story is the fact that Schlarbaum writes not from the standpoint of an author who has researched this topic and is writing about it from the aspect of an “outsider”, but rather as the experienced private investigator that he is. The book has everything you could possibly want for a fascinating story: mystery, intrigue, romance, and suspense. The story begins with Steve Cassidy returning to his hometown to investigate an insurance claim. Seven years previously, Barry Jones had said goodbye to his family and left his home to head off to work as he did every morning. That was the last time Barry was ever seen again. Now, his wife was requesting that the courts declare him dead so that she could collect on his life insurance policy and Steve was sent to look into the matter. His homecoming was not exactly smooth. He had once been a cop but that job ended in disgrace, a fact that the townspeople had not exactly forgotten. To make things even more complicated, Steve would have to face his high school sweetheart…and the fact that he had walked away from her some years before. For Steve, this was like a last chance to prove to the town he had left behind, to the woman he once (and still?) loved, and most of all, to himself that he could leave the ghosts of his past behind and turn his life around. As a reader, I was there rooting for him all the way! Schlarbaum will soon be releasing the second book in the Steve Cassidy Mystery Series and I, for one, can’t wait!
Want to check out the book for yourself?
Official website (the book can be ordered here and there is additional information on Schlarbaum, his books, and book signing appearances): http://scannerpublishing.com/
Want to read the first chapter of the book before ordering?: http://scannerpublishing.com/preview.html
The book trailer