Stone Cold Dead
An Ellie Stone Mystery #3
James W. Ziskin
Seventh Street Books
Ellie Stone is a girl reporter, hanging tenuously to her job on a small town newspaper in upstate New York. Its winter, 1961 and girl reporters are rare and unusual creatures. Ellie Stone is an unusual young woman in the bargain. In her early twenties, she has few scruples about hopping into bed with attractive males, regardless of how involved they might be with her current assignment. She also drinks heavily on occasion.
Her current assignment is to explore the disappearance of a local teen-aged farm girl, Darleen Hicks. Has she been murdered, or run off after disagreements with her parents, teachers at school and a couple of reform school meatheads?
The novel is replete with odd and unusual characters from parents to cops to teachers to colleagues at the newspaper and the narrative is enlivened by conflicts at the newspaper and among other characters. Apparently there’s little to do in the town of New Holland except drink and have sex and squabble. But it is a cold winter and the author makes sure readers are kept aware of it. There are a number of scenes that will stretch readers’ credibility, but idiosyncrasies aside, and in spite of considerable sexist pressure, Ellie struggles on.
I particularly like the way this author handles clues as the investigation proceeds. Some information is discovered, processed and eliminated or stored for later analysis. Other facts seem to jump at one. The variation adds to reader enjoyment. Logical development, slow at times, is always brought eventually to bear on the main plot until we all reach a satisfactory conclusion, if a little too sedately.