Review by Elizabetta

ColdTITLE: Cold

AUTHOR: Brandon Shire

BLURB: Prison is a brutal, heartless, and demeaning environment. No one knows this better than a man sentenced to life in prison for murder. Lem Porter is a high-profile prisoner who had a solid career ahead of him in a field he loved until he killed his brother. He has spent almost eighteen years behind bars and doesn’t have much hope left.

Anderson Passero had it all.  He built a career, a name, and a relationship with a man he thought he loved. Only after he very publicly landed in prison did he realize how ignorant he’d been. He has eight months left on his sentence and he is eager to go home and put prison life behind him. He doesn’t know it yet, but he will always carry these eight months with him, and they may just help him to understand what love really means.

REVIEW:

What we have here are two men left in the cold. Both of them incarcerated for crimes committed through weakness, negligence, or anger… two very different men… can they find warmth in each other, can they find their way to home?

The story starts with Anderson Passero’s transfer into what seems to be a lower-security, open facility (the cells have no doors, there is a shared dormitory). He is counting down the months to the end of his eight-year sentence for drug running in the nightclub he co-owned. He comes from wealth and privilege and has so far, been adrift, unsure, and ultimately, gullible. He is pretty and charismatic, and wants to prove himself; but he loses his way and attracts trouble. Estranged from his homophobic father, Anderson lives his life out and proud. Anything to dig at the old man. Now, all he wants is to stay low, to get out, to go home. Wherever that is…

Lem has served eighteen years for having murdered his brother. He is a “lifer,” a huge, mountain of a man, instilling fear in all around him including the prison guards. Never understood or accepted — at the age of eight he was as big and strong as a teen-ager — he cuts himself off to feeling, walls himself away, only wanting to tend his beloved plants in the prison greenhouse.

But there is a hidden side to this silent giant. There is a mystery begging to be uncovered. Lem could fight for parole (his prison counselor wants to help), if he would just explain the circumstances of the murder, why he killed his brother. But Lem remains silent, he doesn’t want redemption. He’s been shut away so long that this has become his world, these prison walls. Life inside is confined to what he can handle, as long as everyone will just leave him alone. Besides, there’s no one on the outside waiting for him…

Who are these two disparate men, convicted felons, who, on the surface, don’t seem to have much to redeem them? Why should we care about them? I am drawn to Lem. He’s such a puzzle, he hides so much away… a sharp intelligence, a love for nature — he was a forester in a previous life, he’s a country boy at heart. And despite the decades of denial, within those concrete walls, he yearns for something softer. Still waters run deep. He sees the fear and vulnerability in Anderson and that brings out the gentleness, feeds the craving. He is the ‘war-daddy’ with a heart; and for Anderson, he is the stability, the protector ever longed for. I want to root for these men; they are so opposite in many ways, and yet they somehow forge a deep connection in the last days of Anderson’s sentence. I really want to know if there is a future for them.

So while we see the dynamic working between Lem and Anderson and the magnetic, carnal attraction, we don’t get much story before their incarceration. We don’t really get to see where they came from, we must rely mostly on what we get in the here and now. The writing colors them with care and yet, is more spare, the prose stripped down, quite different from Shire’s previous work in “Afflicted.” Still, there are glimmers of loveliness…

“…when I looked out at a forest from the top of a ridge, I saw the cycle and beauty of life… something I used to believe in… it’s a cycle I’m not a part of anymore,” Lem finally replied. “It’s all around us outside of this place, but not in here with us… “What about us, right here and now?” Anderson asked… Len cupped the side of his head… a sincere sadness in his eyes “A false spring,”

Cold is an intriguing look at love against all odds and Shire asks us to take a close look at two difficult characters, to empathize. What is frustrating is that there are factors in the story-telling that never get addressed, that pull me away from my sympathies. At one point in the story, Lem commits an act of unspeakable violence, and it is witnessed by Anderson. It seemed to me that Lem’s act wasn’t the only solution he could have chosen and it isn’t really resolved. It makes me wonder how Anderson can go anywhere near him. And yet he does, again and again. After eight years in the slammer, Anderson still seems rather naive and I’m not convinced that he has learned everything he needs to grow. And, there is still that mystery of Lem’s fratricide — why did he do it? — it keeps nagging at me, I say to myself that I must learn this one thing, here, if nothing else. I must learn why Lem was driven to such violence. It is chilling that almost two decades later, he can so coldly give himself over to it again.

The final blow is that the story does not conclude. Flummoxed by the ending, I had no knowledge at the time I read it that this was the first in a series (though this oversight has since been corrected in the story blurb). Series or not, a book should be able to stand on its own and this one leaves too many unanswered questions. My rating would have been much higher save for these factors.

It seems that Shire is experimenting with his writing and that is always a good thing. While there are holes in the plot, Cold is obviously compelling work and worth reading especially as there will be a sequel. As for that next book; will I read it? Yes, I must, there is that mystery after all, and Lem and Anderson demand it.

Elizabetta’s Rating: 535px-3-5_stars-svg

BUY LINK: Book Store

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Elizabetta is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love
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Comments
  1. great review. I’m thinking maybe I’ll wait until book two comes out and get them both together, because i hate unresolved issues and it would really frustrate me. It certainly looks as if it’s worth reading though

  2. elizabetta says:

    Thanks Nephylim. You won’t want to wait to find out what’s in store for these two guys, that’s for sure 🙂

  3. carol says:

    Don’t agree– COLD is a 5 star ++ the second book is highly anticipated.

    • sidlove says:

      We respect your opinion and we hope you respect a reviewer’s opinion too. Likings, preferences differ from person to person.
      Glad you loved Cold 🙂 Thank you for commenting

  4. Dani says:

    just read it and for me it is a 4 star but i do agree with elizabetta on a lot
    I hate the fact that we dont get answers and the end is so so fustrating !!
    well i hope the second book is here soon!
    x Dani

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