The Paradise Café family is back with Maureen Jennings’ latest murder mystery, Cold Snap. Jennings, of Murdoch Mysteries fame, delivers another Paradise Café mystery that is just as enthralling as the first two entries. Jennings has a flair for the dramatic when it comes to her mysteries. And this only adds to the experience and makes us love these characters even more. After all, when Charlotte Frayne PI is on the case, there is always an adventure to be had.
A Historical Whodunnit With Modern Sensibilities
Jennings has never shied away from showing Canada at its worst in the pre-World War II era. It’s absolutely true that the police of the era were more concerned with preventing a so-called communist invasion than they were with dealing with actual fascists that were very present and active in Canada at the time. The storyline in Cold Snap has been set up from the beginning, and everything comes to a brutal conclusion.
Without giving too much of the story away, it’s immediately clear that the main client in this case is in some kind of trouble. Fleeing early 1930s Germany just spells trouble from the very beginning. And readers can look forward to twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end which is handled with nuance. In addition, it is important, even in fiction, that a light is shone on the very human toll that the pre-World War II era took on so many.
Cold Snap manages that delicate balance.
A Disturbing Backstory
The secondary case in Cold Snap gets super personal for Charlotte. It’s devastating, frankly. Charlotte has always retained her status as a woman of mystery. She loves her grandfather, was raised by her parents and is a phenomenal private investigator. Now, she is forced to confront her past in the most uncomfortable way. Watching her navigate this really just makes her more relatable. Charlotte’s struggle to face her past also makes her a more dynamic character.
Ultimately, this story is a venue to explore the horrific nature of adoption in 1930s Canada. Not that things have improved much, of course (LISTEN TO ACTUAL ADOPTEES), but it is frankly alarming to read horrifying policies and procedures that were accepted as the norm. It’s too bad that the role the Catholic Church played in this cruelty isn’t explored more fully. This story is also a searing indictment to historical attitudes against disabled people. There is a casual disdain with which this community is treated in this story, and it’s nauseating.
Anti-Fascist Kings and Queens
Far-right terrorists have incredibly deep roots in Canada, and we don’t talk about it nearly enough. It’s commendable, then, that Jennings has woven this part of Canadian history into her stories. The Christie Pit Riots are a defining moment in our country’s history. It’s also important that in this fictional story, there is shade thrown at the real Edward VIII for his fascist sympathies. If we can’t acknowledge this in the real world, it’s nice that a fictional story at least bothers to mention this.
When everything in the story falls apart in the most catastrophic way, there’s nothing left but absolute ruin. There are no easy answers here. There are more than enough scapegoats to go around. What the story does do is make the reader question just how pervasive this violent ideology is. There is no part of these characters’ lives that remains unaffected by the coming storm. Watching these characters battle the impacts of this violence in their day-to-day lives is alarming, to say the least.
At the end of it all, Cold Snap is a captivating entry in the Paradise Café saga. And hopefully, this isn’t the end. There are many more stories to explore in this universe. War is coming. Though we know where history goes from here, these characters have many nuances that have yet to be explored. So if you’re a mystery lover, you really should consider checking out this entire series. If you’re not fully sold on the genre, this may be an excellent starting point.
Cold Snap is available now.