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by M.P. Cooley
William Morrow, July 2014
302 pages
ISBN: 0062300709

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

ICE SHEAR opens on a cold upstate New York morning in a mill town hit hard by the economy. The main character June, is working a humdrum job as a police officer precisely because of its predictability. In this small town her main job is protecting drunks from freezing to death in the harsh winter and helping old ladies who might or might not have heard something go bump in the night. The job enables her, with her father's help, to be a single parent to her seven-year-old daughter Lucy. Beautifully woven throughout this story of murder, drugs, a motorcycle gang, and a congresswoman's family is June's personal story. She is finding her way back from the terrible loss of her husband to a very long sickness and finally death from cancer.

The story opens with June finding a young woman impaled on a spike of the fence near the falls. The discovery that this young woman is the daughter of the local congresswoman catapults this mystery into high gear. The FBI is brought in on the case and we learn of June's past. She was an agent in the FBI herself but gave up that life to care for her husband and daughter. June's relationship with other agents, fellow police officers, and inhabitants of the town lends friction to this increasingly complicated tale. June has a long past with many of the characters who populate this story. She grew up in the town where she is working and she previously worked with some of the FBI agents assigned to work with her small town police force.

This setting for this story could be anywhere, anywhere cold, with a waterfall, and low economic expectations. It is the characters that make this book so evocative, powerful, and compelling. We all know someone whose life has been profoundly shaken by major illness. So it comes as no surprise that two families are going through different stages of coping with the effects of terminal illness. The glimpses of everyday coping, in the different stages, are heart-rending. At one point June goes to the home of a possible suspect to question him. The young man's father is suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. When the son gives his father a pill for pain, death is averted only by the unexpected entrance of the wife and mother. She sees her husband quietly choking to death with the pill lodged in his throat, and is able to rescue him. This crisis averted illustrates the tone of much of this book, with its people coping in the best way that they can in hopes of making life better. The portraits of these people and their lives are beautifully and convincing drawn. ICE SHEAR is so accomplished that it is hard to believe it is M.P. Cooley's first novel. The characters and their interwoven personal tragedies are all profoundly true to life and make a gripping story.

Megan Sweeney is an art teacher at the Tuxedo Park School, an independent school in upstate New York. She eats, sleeps, reads, knits, and occasionally makes her own artwork in the nearby town of Monroe, New York where she lives.

Reviewed by Megan Sweeney, June 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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