Drugs and death haunt Cooley’s first novel, which begins with the discovery of Danielle Brouilette’s dead body in the snow. The victim is the daughter of Upstate New York Congresswoman Amanda Brouilette and her husband, Phil. While the high-profile case requires a visible public response from authorities, the first officer on the scene, June Lyons, deals with the complications of her return to small-town policing in Hopewell Falls after a stint with the FBI. When June’s FBI agent husband, Kevin, was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she quit the agency to return to her hometown to care for her husband and small daughter.
Still grieving for Kevin, June has found her niche in Hopewell Falls, working hard to erase the prejudices of her former employment. That task is exacerbated by the arrival of Agent Hale Bascom, ostensibly to offer the agency’s services to a police department that has few serious crimes and a lab inferior to what the FBI can provide. Lyons harbors a long-standing resentment for Bascom, formerly a close friend of the couple during their FBI years, who failed to maintain contact when Kevin was dying, neglecting even to come to his friend’s funeral at the end.
This conflict colors much of June’s attitude when investigating a case that features both the clout of wealthy, politically-connected parents and the man Danielle married when attending school in California: Marty Jelickson, son of the leader of an outlaw biker gang on the West Coast infamous for dealing meth throughout the state. And while Marty Jelickson seems genuinely distraught by his wife’s murder, his younger brother’s involvement is more troublesome. Though Marty is estranged from his notorious father, Zeke, and the gang, Ray’s family ties are unclear.
Juggling a cast of characters that includes the other officers in the Hopewell Falls PD (particularly the town’s one detective, Dave Batko, and Jerry Defoe, a district attorney who has no love for Lyons), Cooley fleshes out her novel with locals struggling to survive in a formerly thriving economy, like Danielle’s former boyfriend, Jason, and his mother, Denise, whose small pharmacy is in daily competition with chain drugstores, Jason’s father seriously incapacitated by illness.
While the title might imply the extremes of weather in a harsh climate, the true culprit is the creeping menace of the illegal meth trade and the potential for expansion from the West Coast to the Northeast. Between June’s conflicted relationship with her current job, the intrusion of Hale Bascom and the violence that arrives in town with Zeke Jelickson, and the young widow’s instincts in finding the killer, this is real-world crime fiction, set in the heart of Anytown, USA, where the wolf is at the door.