Title: Cold Cold Heart
Author: Tami Hoag
Publisher: Dutton; First Edition first Printing edition (January 13, 2015)
Source: NetGalley eArc
Synopsis: (compliments of GoodReads.com) Dana Nolan was a promising young TV reporter until a notorious serial killer tried to add her to his list of victims. Nearly a year has passed since surviving her ordeal, but the physical, emotional, and psychological scars run deep. Struggling with the torment of post-traumatic stress syndrome, plagued by flashbacks and nightmares as dark as the heart of a killer, Dana returns to her hometown in an attempt to begin to put her life back together. But home doesn’t provide the comfort she expects.
Dana’s harrowing story and her return to small town life have rekindled police and media interest in the unsolved case of her childhood best friend, Casey Grant, who disappeared without a trace the summer after their graduation from high school. Terrified of truths long-buried, Dana reluctantly begins to look back at her past. Viewed through the dark filter of PTSD, old friends and loved ones become suspects and enemies. Questioning everything she knows, refusing to be defined by the traumas of her past and struggling against excruciating odds, Dana seeks out a truth that may prove too terrible to be believed…
My Thoughts: While this book is marketed as a standalone it does loosely tie in to her Kovac/Liska series whereas the main character, Dana Nolan, makes an appearance in the 4th book of that series The 9th Girl. I've not read that series and can state that you do not have to read any other Hoag book to understand what is going on in this one. However, if you do not like spoilers, this book gives the name of the killer in The 9th Girl. Just an FYI.
The Good Stuff: I think what really shines in this book is the character development. I've never read a book of fiction that portrays the struggles of a person with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) with such accuracy. In addition to TBI, Dana also suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is also handled exceptionally well. From Dana's struggles to relearn everything from talking to walking to realizing her day would now consist of various Post It notes to remind her to do things like brush her teeth. In addition to Dana's struggles to return to a somewhat normal existence we see how her family struggles with the "After Dana." This is the term Dana came up with to separate who she was before the TBI (Before Dana) to who she is now (After Dana). Not only does she have to learn the basics all over again she has to define who she is again. A person takes years to develop their personalities and likes/dislikes. In Dana's case she didn't know if she liked, let's say, broccoli so she'd have to experience it again for the first time to make that kind of determination. Yet her mom would make a meal because it was "Dana's Favorite" only to get upset that it no longer appealed to the After Dana. Dana's frustrations, her confusion, and her anger were all just so spot on. It amazed me.
The Not so Good Stuff: I think for me, the stuff that wasn't quite as good (not bad, mind you...just not as impacting as the good stuff) was the suspense behind the cold case that Dana happened to help solve while trying to remember certain aspects of her past. In all actuality 2 cold cases were solved but neither really garnered as much appreciation as the TBI part did. Because I wasn't fully invested in the plot of the book (essentially the what happened to Dana's high school best friend) I really didn't care if it was solved or not other than it was interesting to see how the After Dana kept pushing for answers when the Before Dana really didn't.
In a Nutshell: The author's notes after the conclusion of the book was enlightening. To know that Tami Hoag suffered a TBI early in her life really solidified Dana's struggles to me. I think character driven people will appreciate Dana and enjoy this book. However, plot driven people may find the pace very slow once the hard impacting prologue ends. In addition, those who enjoy Hoag's romances will be disappointed that there is no romance whatsoever here. Despite my love of romances I'm glad there wasn't one to muddy the rest of the story.