Book Review: Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag

“Dana Nolan was a promising young TV reporter until a notorious serial killer tried to add her to his list of victims.  Nearly a year has passed since surviving her ordeal, but the physical, emotional, and psychological scars run deep.  Struggling with the torment of post-traumatic stress syndrome, plagued by flashbacks and nightmares as dark as the heart of a killer, Dana returns to her hometown in an attempt to begin to put her life back together.  But home doesn’t provide the comfort she expects.

Dana’s harrowing story and her return to small town life have rekindled police and media interest in the unsolved case of her childhood best friend, Casey Grant, who disappeared without a trace the summer after their graduation from high school.  Terrified of truths long-buried, Dana reluctantly begins to look back at her past.  Viewed through the dark filter of PTSD, old friends and loved ones become suspects and enemies.  Questioning everything she knows, refusing to be defined by the traumas of her past and struggling against excruciating odds, Dana seeks out a truth that may prove too terrible to be believed…”

“Where there is life, there is hope” - Dana

A year ago, Dana Nolan barely escaped the clutches of a serial killer with her life, after being beaten, tortured and raped. “Before Dana” (as she describes herself before the trauma) was an intelligent, attractive, confident and successful TV news reporter. “After Dana”, prefers to hide in a hoodie and can’t control what comes out of her mouth. Suffering with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as a result of severe trauma to her head, her woes become even more pronounced as we learn of her disfigurements, scars, terrible nightmares and debilitating memory loss. She is now just a shadow of her former self. In fact, there’s barely anything left of the girl she used to be. When her mother brings her home to Shelby Mills, all of a sudden the interest in her best friend, Casey Grant’s disappearance, is reignited with Dana caught in the midst of it all. But, when an incident triggers a distant memory, she begins to relentlessly search for answers pertaining to Casey’s unsolved disappearance just after graduation, seven years before.

The other characters Tami introduces us to are John Villante, the boy from the wrong side of the tracks who dated Casey in high school then left town to join the army but who has now come home a lost and broken man with a lot of anger issues; Dana’s mom who is shattered by the trauma that her daughter has endured; Roger, her step-father who can barely even look at her now; Tim Carver, Dana’s high-school sweetheart and now the current town deputy; “Mack” Villante, John’s father, an abusive, cold, begrudging alcoholic who can’t even bring himself to love his son; and Dan Hardy, the now retired detective who investigated the disappearance of Casey.

Tami sets every one of her characters up so perfectly that not one of them (including Dana herself) is beyond suspicion and I felt myself constantly second-guessing myself as she expertly led me first in one direction and then another.

Her writing style is brilliant, drawing you into both her main protagonists’ worlds immediately, as she gives us both their perspectives with, for me, strains of Gotye’s song, “Somebody that I Used to Know”, heart-achingly replaying in the back of my mind throughout . Her voice is sympathetic to all the afflictions, such as PTSD and TIB, touched on and, when you read her author’s notes, you will realise why – she has either been through it or knows someone who has.

Tami has structured the novel in such a way that the first three quarters of the book have longer chapters giving us a lot of interesting background into what has brought all these characters to this point in their lives with maximum emotional impact. As you reach the climax though, the chapters get shorter, building up to a corker of a denouement in which all the questions you have asked yourself will be answered.

Taut, edgy, multi-layered, and totally absorbing, Tami Hoag will have you checking your doors twice while coming to the realisation that you should never prejudge the worth of a human being by circumstance and outward appearance alone.

Well worth the read for all fans of the crime and thriller genre.

I wish to thank Hachette Australia for providing me with an ARC of this novel by an author who I'll definitely be seeking out in the future.

About the Author

Tami Hoag's novels have appeared on international bestseller lists regularly since the publication of her first book in 1988. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages worldwide and over twenty-million copies of her books are in print. Tami is a dedicated equestrian in the discipline of dressage and shares her home with two English cocker spaniels. She lives in Florida. Find out more at


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