Cold Hearted by Toni Anderson

Cold Hearted by Toni AndersonCold Hearted by Toni Anderson
Series: Cold Justice, #6
Published by Toni Anderson on May 31st 2016
Pages: 333
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Detective Erin Donovan expects life to quiet down after the arrest and conviction of a serial rapist who terrified her university town last summer. Then two young women are brutally slain and the murders bear all the hallmarks of the campus rapist. Did Erin arrest an innocent man? Now her job is at stake and tensions are high and just when it looks like things can’t get worse, her department gets the help it needs to solve the double homicide—in the form of a man Erin has never been able to forget.

FBI Agent Darsh Singh has no interest in reliving the past. Three years ago, his feelings for Erin Donovan had him breaking all his rules about getting involved. Now his only interest in the former NYPD detective is figuring out if she screwed up a rape investigation and helped send an innocent man to prison. But being forced to work together rekindles their old attraction, and as Darsh and Erin fall for each other, the campus predator fixates on Erin. The race is on to identify the ruthless killer before he makes Erin his final victim.

Darsh Singh and Erin Donovan have a short history: a brief hook-up that ended spectacularly in flames when a revelation thereafter shook both their worlds. Their reunion three years later happens in the powder-keg of a crime case to which Darsh is assigned; two women are brutally assaulted in the wake of a conviction a few months earlier, a repeat of a crime that has everyone thinking that Erin Donovan had in fact, thrown the wrong person in jail. Darsh and Erin need to get to the bottom of the case fast, while fighting the intense attraction that had never really gone away.

Like with most of Toni Anderson’s books, I liked several bits and struggled with others. Much of the book is the grind of hard-core police work: canvassing around, dealing with red-herrings and suspects who may or may not be the perpetrator. Like a driven, intense police procedural that tends to pepper the small screen these days, ‘Cold Hearted’ magically weaves that spell of dread and mystery. Yet the story, constructed around campus crime, is also about a multitude of topics: diversity along ethnic lines, domestic violence and abuse, all reflected in varying shades in the the characters that grace its pages. Perhaps what is most surprising is that I found myself more taken with the secondary characters than the main ones at times; college kids in the foreground as well as the periphery caught up in the scandal who had a core of loyalty (but a juvenile way of showing it) and a huge sense of justice that made me like them a lot.

Yet if Ms. Anderson’s characters are strong and capable, they were flawed in a way that challenged my own personal tolerance limits. Dark, brooding, tortured hero? Tick. With a temper problem that doesn’t quite cross into violence? Sure. Has OCD? Bring it on. Has a problem with stunted emotions? I’d say we play for the same team. The list could go on, until we hit something from which I’ll walk away. There are a few hard limits that I have even in fiction but cheating – even if it’s weakly justified in the book – raises every red flag for me. For this reason, I did have issues with what Erin had done, yet I understood and even admired her grit for doing what she did. Darsh on the other hand, is an easier character to place and categorise for his strong moral core – rightfully furious about having been complicit, unwittingly or not in adultery – and his dedication to his work.

Despite my personal reservations, ‘Cold Hearted’ is gifted storytelling at work, engaging and compelling in spite of what I didn’t like about the pairing. The unfolding murder mystery beckoned to me more than the sometimes farcical drama that Darsh/Erin were caught in and somehow, even that was enough.