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Ice Shear
M. P. Cooley

William Morrow
July 22, 2014/ ISBN 9780062300706
Mystery / Police Procedural

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


Ice Shear, M. P. Cooley’s debut novel, is very impressive. She moves the plot along through the dialogue. Action comes from the character’s words and not from gun shoot-outs or bloody chases. But make no mistake this police procedural is far from dull and mundane.

The story begins with June Lyons, a former FBI agent, who is now part of the Hopewell Falls New York police department. Working the night shift her duties seem limited to driving drunks home and handling the homeless. This small town in upstate New York hardly knew what the word murder meant until June discovers a young woman’s body, the daughter of a powerful local Congresswoman, impaled on an ice shear in the frozen Mohawk River. Trying to discover the murderer the local police finds clues leading to the involvement of a notorious biker gang and people running a meth lab. This brings in the FBI where one of the agents, Hale, is an old friend from a past June would rather forget. To make matters worse, she is chosen as the liaison between the FBI and local police since she is a former FBI agent. Cooley skillfully weaves the storyline between revenge, retribution, greed, corruption, jealously, turf fights, and power as the search for the murderer continues.

Cooley commented, “June had grand plans for her life and now feels she has lost everything: her husband, her career, and her home. She knows she made the right decision returning home, but she still feels the loss of her old life. While June would never describe herself as a hero, I think she is, showing up for her family, friends, and city while doing the right thing, day after day. June doesn’t share her thoughts and feelings with most people. Being in her head, the readers may know more about her than a lot of her friends and family. Her family has given the strength and hope to get past her husband’s death and solve the murder of Danielle Brouillette. From her father she got a strong sense of duty and a refusal to give up a case until it is solved. Her daughter gave her a reason to live and a reason to hope. Even grieving, she works to make sure her daughter feels safe and loved, and that includes solving the crimes that could destroy the town where they live. Law enforcement understands the gravity of pulling the weapon, and I used that sense of responsibility in developing the character of June.”

Noting about biker gangs Cooley stated, “I went on the message boards and talked to bikers. They consider being in a gang as having freedom and a brotherhood. They believe they are living their values. I had a bit of luck when a group of bikers started coming into my favorite coffee shop on Thursday evenings. They wore full leathers, big Harleys, the whole deal. I wouldn’t have expected Peet’s to be a biker hangout, but they sat next to me one day and we started talking. They called themselves “The Saints and Sinners”, and were a sober biker gang. A lot of them had been part of the Bandidos or Hell’s Angels, but decided to leave when their lives got out of control, and the booze and drugs became too much. But getting out wasn’t easy. They lost their friends and family, their whole life, and to exit they had to be beaten by the entire gang. If they lived through the beating, they could leave. A lot of what they told me became the basis of Marty. I actually plan on bringing Marty back if the series continues.”

But it is also a story of grief as seen through June’s eyes. She left the Bureau when her husband became gravely ill, eventually dying. She thinks about him often and leans on her dad, the retired police chief of Hopewell Falls, to help raise her young daughter. Although likeable and smart June keeps to herself putting her personal life on the back burner because of her unhealed anguish. She is still silently mourning the death of her husband while trying to raise her daughter and hold down a fulltime job on the local police force of the town where she grew up.

Cooley also dealt with grief. “Two years before writing this book I lost my dad who was someone important to me. I also lost my career as a book editor. For me, grief is making peace with the loss, letting go, and making a new life. I wrote June in a similar path. Marty also suffered grief when he lost his wife. Yet, whereas Marty gets pulled back into his past June is able to move forward. Grief had cut me off from other people, which is similar to June in the beginning of the book. She is able to get a high from her job but puts her private life on the back burner.”

Ice Shear has a complex plot with many twists and turns. This novel is not just a rural thriller but has themes of power, corruption, and cover-up. Through her well-developed main character, June, she has created an old fashioned hero, a detective anyone can identify with and root for. Mystery readers should look forward to many books in this series that show the make-up of a true champion that can overcome personal obstacles while professionally making sure the bad guys never win.

Reviewed 2014