Bismarck author's novel worth every moment
"In from the Cold," David R. Bliss, Big Hill Publishing, 2010. The challenge in reviewing a suspense novel is to intrigue the reader without spoiling the plot. Take "In From The Cold," for example, a thoroughly fascinating story by Bismarck attor...
"In from the Cold," David R. Bliss, Big Hill Publishing, 2010.
The challenge in reviewing a suspense novel is to intrigue the reader without spoiling the plot. Take "In From The Cold," for example, a thoroughly fascinating story by Bismarck attorney David R. Bliss.
It is captivating on several scores, with clever dialogue, an intriguing plot and characters such as a coolly, efficient secretary who untangles schedules, salvages last minute briefs and placates irate clients while keeping spare ties in her desk drawer for her sometimes disheveled boss.
Wandering in and out of the office is Todd, a hippie relic from the 1960s, a first-class nerd and peerless private investigator who can untangle financial shenanigans and uncover long concealed facts in mysterious fashion.
The hero is Wilkins, an absent minded, middle-aged, rumpled attorney, devoted to the daughter he has raised since his divorce. His clients often are losers by society's reckoning.
"He would just as soon represent a poor bastard who robbed a Seven Eleven and who was probably videotaped in the process," the author writes of Wilkins. "At least the guy's motives were clear and he wasn't about to short sell Seven Eleven stock the next day to unsuspecting investors."
Wilkins's longtime friend and client, George, is missing in Alaska, presumably in the crash of a small plane in a remote and mountainous area. The pilot's body has been retrieved but there is no sign of George and any further recovery will have to wait until spring since the accident site literally has been snowed under. The short opening chapter describes the crash in moving detail.
When we meet Wilkins, he is in court with an orange- clad client, bargaining with an experienced, weary judge. The story line soon moves to the missing George, a kind-hearted innocent who has made a fortune selling manure. He has an elegant and ruthless business partner, Waingrove, an Ivy League lawyer intent on acquiring total control of George's financial empire -- starting with manipulating George's air-headed and unfaithful trophy wife.
With Waingrove suing to have George declared dead so he can assume control, the judge allows Wilkins six months to produce proof that George is alive. The story turns into a cliff hanger but not without further complications. Anymore on that, however, would risk breaking the reviewer rule about plot defoliation.
Bliss obviously knows a lot about Alaska; he was a Vista volunteer there. Descriptions of traveling in rough weather in small planes and the like leave readers feeling more familiar with Alaska as a place of stark contrast between awesome scenery and daily challenges.
"Alaska seemed at once so majestic and yet so unforgiving," Bliss writes. "The margin of error for dreams fulfilled and dreams lost seemed to be very narrow."
This is a clever, witty book with an engaging hero whose habit of losing things (such as his cell phone) at inopportune moments often make judges want to throw him out of court. Yet Wilkins is a man who keeps his values in proper order. "In From the Cold" kept me up way past my bedtime and was worth every sleepless minute.