Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Cloudland by Joseph Olshan
Catherine Winslow tells her own story. A former journalist, she now lives in rural Vermont with two dogs and her two hundred fifty pound potbellied pig. Alienated from her only daughter, fired from her teaching job after having an affair with a former student, she writes a household hints column, teaches a writing class to prisoners. She has a quiet life with just a few neighbors on Cloudland Road. Then while out walking during a thaw in late March, Catherine comes across a woman who appears to be sitting under an apple tree. She recognizes the body as that of a nurse who disappeared in January, probably the sixth victim of a killer in two years.
Catherine still misses her career as a journalist, so it's easy for her to agree to help the police and her neighbor, a forensic psychologist, in the investigation. It's an investigation, though, with connections to her own life. Her neighbor, Anthony, is going through marriage problems that remind Catherine of her own past. The investigating detective has an only daughter who has issues, so Catherine can relate to him. When the text of one of her favorite Wilkie Collins books seems to be related to the killings, and Catherine's former lover shows up, her past and her life seem to be pressing down on her. Even Catherine's prisoner students warn her she might be the killer's target. She's very much aware that the killer might be someone she knows.
Olshan's Catherine Winslow is a beautifully developed, flawed heroine who has problems dealing with her daughter and relationships following her husband's adultery and death. She's strong-willed, inquisitive, the perfect protagonist for Cloudland. This is a gripping crime novel, with a perfect ending, a surprise that doesn't come out of the blue, but fits the story. The isolated setting, and the story of the murdered women are vividly created in this book. Readers who are fans of S.J. Bolton's atmospheric thrillers should try Olshan's Cloudland. Cloudland isn't Olshan's first book. However, it's his first crime novel, and it's pitch perfect.
Joseph Olshan's website is www.josepholshan.com
Cloudland by Joseph Olshan. St. Martin's Minotaur. 2012. ISBN 9780250000170 (hardcover), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.