First Line: He called himself Stan, although Torry was pretty sure Stan wasn't his real name.
The two main characters: Mitch Berger, New York film critic and reclusive curmudgeon; and Lieutenant Desiree Mitry of the Connecticut State Police, six-foot-one, long dreadlocks, legs up to there, and a rescuer of feral cats.
I was, but I was also in for a shock. For some reason when the term "curmudgeon" is used to describe someone, I automatically think of that person as being over fifty years of age. Mitch Berger is barely in his thirties, and has been thrown for a loop by the death of his beloved wife. He's lived and breathed movies his entire life, and being a film critic is the perfect job for him:
"I discovered that I come alive in the dark," he said. "Not so much like a vampire but more like an exotic form of fungus. A darkened movie theater is my natural habitat."
Enough time has passed after his wife's death that Mitch begins to feel a need for a change of scenery, someplace where he can work on his latest book. He finds a place on Connecticut's Gold Coast:
Because this was no ordinary outbuilding. It was a genuine antique post-and-beam carriage house with exposed beams of hand-hewn chestnut. The room, which was a good-sized one, had a big fieldstone fireplace at one end, wide-boarded oak floors and floor-to-ceiling windows that afforded a totally unobstructed view of the water in three different directions. It was a bit like being on the bridge of a ship at sea.
Although Mitch had just thought of staying at a B&B for a couple of weeks, after seeing this carriage house, he couldn't help himself and rented it immediately from its blue-blooded Yankee owner. Mitch moves in, the sea air begins working its magic on him, he decides to put in a garden...and when his spade uncovers a dead body, he has the pleasure of meeting Lieutenant Desiree Mitry. What did the good lieutenant think when she first laid eyes on Mitch?
Mitch Berger had the saddest eyes Des had ever seen on any creature that was not living at the Humane Society, its wet nose and furry paws pressed to the door of its cage.
A few pieces of the plot are well-known devices: the small town community that shuns outsiders; the rich folks who expect doffed caps and tugged forelocks and know that the laws do not apply to them. Well-known and well-worn or not, what drew me into this book hook, line and sinker were Handler's way with words and his characterizations. Handler has an eye for detail and a talent for snappy dialogue. Although Berger and Mitry are the stars of the book (each with a personal arsenal of life's scars), there are other characters that stand out and remain in my memory: the single mother who makes a fatal mistake, the old "Cranky Yankee"....
It's been a long time since I was so charmed by one book that I immediately started grabbing as many of the other books in the series as I could get my hands on, but that's what I did when I finished The Cold Blue Blood. I have the next three books in the series waiting to be read. I know I'm in for a treat!