Courting Callie

The Eleventh Hour

Searching For Sarah

In the Cold by Lynn Erickson
(Berkley, $6.99, G) ISBN 0-425-19069-2
In the Cold left me cold. Since romance can't be a prime element of this story about a mother worrying about her kidnapped daughter, there should be more suspense to compensate for the lack.

Ashley Lacouter Marin is raising her fifteen-year-old daughter, Lauren, and caring for her mother, who has Alzheimer's. Her household includes a Russian couple, Vladimir and Luda, who take care of her mother while Ashley teaches math at Aspen High in Colorado.

Making ends meet is not easy, especially since her wealthy ex-husband, Robert Marin, doesn't worry about getting his support payments to Ashley on time. It isn't that Robert doesn't love his daughter; he just thinks Lauren would be better off with him and his new wife.

Robert thinks Ashley isn't mentally stable because of a traumatic experience she endured as a teenager. When Ashley was sixteen, a father and son, Jerry and Davey Potts, kidnapped her at a Colorado campsite.

When Ashley refused to cook and care for them, they put her in a deserted mine outside of Aspen for most of the summer. To this day, Ashley can't sleep in a room without the windows and doors being open and she still has nightmares.

But even Ashley's worst nightmares couldn't have prepared her for her daughter's disappearance. Especially after she receives a phone call from her former tormentor, Davey Potts, who tells her he has Lauren and that he will hurt Lauren if Ashley goes to the police.

Ashley turns to the man who rescued her when she was sixteen, Chris Judge. Chris was hunting with his father when he heard Ashley's cries. Rescuing her from the mine convinced him his calling was law enforcement.

However, being an undercover cop cost Chris his marriage, his position with the Newark police and his mental well-being. Chris is battling tough inner demons when Ashley calls for his help. He wants to tell her he's no good to her or anyone else these days, but he finds he can't say no to her.

Other than the fear for Lauren, In The Cold doesn't generate much tension. It's not that the romance is bad, but since it would be in extremely bad taste for a mother to have a hot romance while her daughter is being held captive, it's definitely on the backburner for most of the story.

In the Cold would have been better if the authors had created some doubt as to Chris's ability to handle the investigation. Not even for a moment, did it seem that this guy was a mental wreck who couldn't handle the job.

Also, the authors' refusal to allow Ashley to relive what happened to her during her months of capture was a mistake. I'm not looking for anything sleazy, but it's hard to feel her intense fear when all I know is what happened at the beginning and at the end of her kidnapping. I needed a few more of the blanks filled in.

When Ashley says she is terrified for Lauren because she knows how terrible Davey Potts can be, I'm wondering why does she feel that way? From what I'd read, Davey was a boy who simply followed his father's orders to kidnap her and leave her in the mine till she agreed to stay and take care of them.

Finally, it seems like Ashley spends a lot of time trying to convince herself, and everyone else, that it is best if she Ashley and Chris do not contact the police concerning Lauren's disappearance. Frankly, she failed to convince me. Since I couldn't accept or agree with the rationale for not calling the police, I couldn't accept the subsequent storyline.

--Judith Flavell

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