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Onyx reviews: Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen

A spontaneous decision has terrible consequences for medical examiner Maura Isles. At the conclusion of a conference in Wyoming, she impulsively agrees to go on a trip with Doug Comley, a former classmate from Stanford who she hasn't seen in years. Maura is struggling with the state of her clandestine relationship with Father Daniel Brophy. An escapist ski vacation offers the chance to forget about her problems for a while.

Accompanying them on the trip are Doug's 13-year-old daughter Grace, his friend Arlo, and Arlo's long-time girlfriend Elaine. It doesn't take long for Maura to get the feeling that she shouldn't have accepted Doug's invitation. Grace is petulant and argumentative, and the dynamics among Doug, Arlo and Elaine belie long-standing issues that Maura doesn't understand and doesn't want to.

However, squabbles are the least of their problems. Lola, Doug's literal-minded GPS system, takes them off the beaten track via a road that is closed for the winter. Snow begins to fall and Doug won't turn around until it's too late. His Suburban goes into a ditch and the five travelers are stranded in a blizzard miles from civilization. No one else knows where they are. Maura didn't tell anyone where she was going—or even that she was going anywhere.

They take shelter in the mysterious enclave known as Kingdom Come. Whoever once lived in the twelve nearly identical houses abandoned them in a hurry. The windows are open, there's food on the table and cars in the garages. Maura finds bloodstains in one house, and dead pets in others. 

Maura's friends back in Boston begin to worry when she misses her flight home and doesn't answer her phone. Of course there's no electricity or cell phone coverage in Kingdom Come—that would put an end to the tension and the dilemma in a hurry. 

Gerritsen devotes a lot of effort to developing the harrowing predicament the stranded travelers face. She throws significant hurdles their way and places them in great peril. Then she makes a choice that may disorient and disappoint readers. After spending so much time with these five individuals, she abandons them and their gripping situation, shifting the focus to homicide detective Jane Rizzoli, FBI agent Gabriel Dean and Father Brophy as they try to determine what happened to Maura.

For the remainder of the book, one character tries to survive as the others look for her. Not everyone involved in the search wants to help. Someone is determined to hide what happened to the residents of Kingdom Come, members of a cult group where daughters are coveted by the patriarchs and sons are discarded and abandoned. The Boston-based law enforcement officers interface with local police in Wyoming, determined to keep the investigation going even when evidence suggests that continuing the search would be futile. 

One issue that emerges with series is how little or how much backstory the author should convey in each installment. Often, past events aren't important and readers can fill in the gaps on their own. However, a comparatively unique situation like the one Maura Isles finds herself in—being involved in a romantic relationship with a priest—deserves a little more explanation to bring first-time readers up to speed. Otherwise it is somewhat confusing.

Ice Cold has some problems but, despite them, Gerritsen weaves a fast-paced story with numerous twists, plenty of suspense and a satisfying resolution.

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