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When It was Cold by Howard Shrier

Reviewed by Jim Napier

An experienced writer will tell you that creating a good short story can often be more challenging than penning a full-length novel. The short story author hasn’t the luxury of creating a prodigious cast of nuanced characters, richly atmospheric settings or byzantine plots populated with fiendish red herrings that confuse the reader’s crime-solving skills. It is closer to the skill of a Japanese brush-painter, who in a few bold strokes must create an imaginary, nuanced world, tiny by comparison, but complete in and of itself.

Best known for his multiple-award-winning crime novels (Buffalo Jump, High Chicago, Boston Cream, and Miss Montreal, all published by Random House), Canadian crime writer Howard Shrier has recently published a collection of short stories that will appeal to his many fans and earn him many new readers as well.

The eleven dark stories, several of them prize-winning tales in their own right, span the globe from Collingwood, Ontario to Toronto, suburban Buffalo to the Dominican Republic, Ukraine to Sitka, Alaska and on to Panama, even moving back in time, in an impish-but-perfectly-executed hard-boiled account of what really happened in the Holy Land during the earliest days of Christianity.

The plots are equally diverse and include, among others, an ex-con who shows up on his brother’s doorstep looking for a place to stay, unaware that his brother’s wife is suffering from terminal cancer; a wife-abuser who gets his comeuppances from a new arrival in the neighbourhood; a missing child who turns up dead and a local eccentric with a dark secret to hide; and a tattoo artist with an unusual request and an offer that can’t be turned down.

The whole makes for a diverse and entertaining collection of noir tales that is vintage Shrier, the pervasive mood taking its force from the dark settings and damaged characters that we have come to expect from the talented author. His many fans will have much to rejoice about this collection, and I predict it will leave them – as it has me – calling for more.

When It was Cold is published by


In addition to being a reviewer with over six hundred reviews to his credit, Jim Napier is the author of Legacy and Ridley’s War, in the Colin McDermott Mystery Series.


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