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James A. Ross

Coldwater Revenge

A Coldwater Mystery

First published by Level Best Books 2021

Copyright © 2021 by James A. Ross

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmittedin any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise withoutwritten permission from the publisher. It is illegal to copy this book, post it to a website, or distributeit by any other means without permission.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it arethe work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localitiesis entirely coincidental.

James A. Ross asserts the moral right to be identified asthe author of this work.

This is an unrevised and unpublished Advanced Reader Copy Proof. This copy is not for distribution to the public. This is an advance reader’s edition created from uncorrected proofs and is not for sale. Typos and errors will be corrected for the final released edition of the book. | | Review/Publicity Contact: Ryan Mahan [email protected] or (707)272-7926

First edition

ISBN: 978-1-953789-55-6

Cover art by Rebecacovers & Ryan Mahan

This book was professionally typeset on Reedsy

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For my sons, Guy and Drew, may they never fall for the same person.

“And a man’s foes shall be those of his own household.”

Matthew 10:26

Praise for Coldwater Revenge

“From the first page, I was drawn into Jim Ross’ captivating novel, Coldwater Revenge. More than a crime novel over the death of a local boy who ran with the wrong crowd, this story has layers in the depths of its characters. The warmth between Tom Morgan and his brother as they work to investigate the murder adds a touching humanity to the story, and the care with which Tom nurtures his neurodiverse nephew brings the dynamics of this family alive on the page. It doesn’t stop there. Ross imbues the many characters in his setting with rich backstory that comes out in the present. In the hands of a lesser writer, the intensity of the different sub-plots might overwhelm the main story, but Ross deftly brings all the story threads together in a gripping read. This is a book not to miss!” — Vanitha Sankaran, author of Watermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages

“Author James A. Ross grabs you and keeps you spellbound as this fast-paced thriller plunges into the icy depths of a dangerous lake on the Canadian border, and two brothers reconnect to solve a crisis which grows from a murder investigation into potential international terrorism.” — Lenore Mitchel, author of DYING TO RIDE

“Coldwater Revenge by Jim Ross is a testament to how great mystery stories should be written; with grit and style, and with unnerving characters that blossom into palpable genre-representations that foil each other marvelously with each new page. Detailed and vividly conceived, there’s little doubt the story takes its readers to a place of intrigue where it’s near impossible to gage an outcome, and instead we must let it come, sometimes suddenly, while praying that there will continue to be more left to read. To call it a page-turner would be an understatement.” — Josh Michael, Associate Fiction Editor, Mud Season Review


Fall 2002

Billy Pearce was still alive, though neither he nor his killer knew it. The plunge into the icy darkness of Coldwater Lake brought Billy back to consciousness, but not awareness. His body filled the narrow sleeping bag. Cement blocks at his feet ensured that it found bottom and stayed there. Where his face filled the opening at the top of the bag, strobes of sparkling moonlight made prisms of the bubbles that could well be his last mortal breath. But Billy didn’t think about that. His mind was somewhere else. This had happened to him before, a long time ago, and his mind went back there now.

When Billy was thirteen, he’d decided to break into a golf course clubhouse on the far side of Wilson Cove to steal liquor that he’d heard had been left in the basement storeroom over the winter. Temperatures had been unseasonably warm for most of the month. But Billy had decided to chance the walk across the late winter ice, rather than risk being spotted along the lake road at an hour when boys his age were presumed to be in school.

The frozen ice crackled and popped beneath his feet like a bowl of breakfast cereal. Billy imagined the party he would have with the liquor he was going to steal. And while he busied himself with a short mental list of who he could invite that would not rat him out, the snap, crackle pop went WHOOSH! and he plunged like a clown through a trap door into the freezing lake. In an instant, his heavy winter jacket sponged its weight in brain-numbing ice water, boots filled like pails and the whole soggy weight of it dragged him rapidly toward bottom.

But Billy didn’t panic. His egghead family may have thought him deficient because of his constant troubles in school and his indifference to books, but Billy was brighter than they knew, and a childhood of disapproval had made him stoic and unflappable.

As his body drifted toward bottom, Billy methodically removed everything that was weighing him down: jacket, boots, shirt and trousers—everything but underwear. That done, he looked for the halo of light that would mark the spot where his fall had punched a temporary hole in the rotting ice. When he found it, and before his breath could give out or his mind succumb to the numbing cold, Billy had kicked and clawed his slim, nearly naked body through the hole and onto the ice.

Now, on a starless October night a dozen years later, his mind went back to that time where his body knew what to do and his brain

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