Monday, April 11, 2011

The Cold Kiss / by John Rector

Fleeing a past they'd rather forget, Nate and Sara are two twenty-somethings driving from Minnesota to Reno to get married when they stop in to a diner to have lunch. There they meet a man, Syl White, who's car won't start. Syl also seems to be desperately ill though he vehemently denies it, saying he just needs a lift to Omaha for which he openly offers Nate over $500 in cash. Despite reservations, sympathy gets the better of them and they agree to give the stranger a lift. But as the trio set off, a furious snowstorm practically strands them on the road until by chance they stumble into a shabby motel, The Oasis Inn, where they discover that there passenger has not only been shot recently, but that he's (practically) dead. Owing to the storm, emergency relay is virtually impossible and further arrangements have to be delayed. But that's not all. Inside his coat pocket he's got over $20,000 in crisp new bills, a discovery startling both Nate and Sara until they get a look at what's inside Syl's briefcase--almost $2 million in cash.

In a panic over what to do and knowing that to take the money would mean having to lie about their encounter with the stranger, Nat and Sara spend the night restlessly trying to handle their little situation, ultimately deciding to abscond with the cash the following morning since nothing more can be done for their now decidedly dead passenger. That night Nate tries to hide the body, dragging it out of the car and into a nearby field where presumably it would be hidden from view. But someone sees him and before long, the couple's little plan becomes a desperate attempt to cover up their maneuvers as the ever-worsening blizzard keeps them snowed in at least for the next few hours and the curious story behind the money steadily unravels.

Having written nothing but short fiction before Cold Kiss, his first novel, Rector doesn't waste any time introducing his story and his ill-fated characters which he tailors into a fast and manageable read, one which maintains a steady stream of abrupt turning points throughout the narrative. There's nothing all that original about the plot--large sum of money of vague origins falling into the hands of some not-terribly-bright individuals/handful of strangers stuck together under confined conditions. But the author seems to know where he's headed. That is to say he knows where his characters are headed, all eight of them, who, while they may not jump off the page, are enough of an assortment imperfect people to both scrutinize and evoke sympathy simply because, not unlike real life, they're people who just can't seem to learn from their mistakes. (FIC RECTOR)

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