It's nearly impossible for a reader to understand what it must be like to write a series of books, based around the same characters. All we can do is be extremely grateful that writers like Katherine Howell can do it, book after book, maintaining the same high standard, giving us new stories, and new situations for the characters to appear in, keeping the series fresh and interesting all the time.
Following on from FRANTIC and THE DARKEST HOUR, the third book COLD JUSTICE again simply does not miss a beat. Part of the reason that these books are so good is the shifting viewpoint. Not only does the author use her paramedic / ambulance officer background to great effect, writing characters from within that world, she combines them with a good, solid, interesting police cast, concentrating on a central character - Detective Ella Marconi. This switching perspective gives the stories some real depth, although, in COLD JUSTICE, the formula is twisted slightly again. Georgie Daniels is a paramedic with current day work problems, and a teenage connection back to the murder of a classmate. Nineteen years ago she discovered the body of Tim Pieters hidden amongst bushes. His family was devastated and Georgie's own friendship with Freya destroyed overnight. All these years later, having problems with an out of control boss, she's transferred to a new ambulance station and finds herself working with (and being assessed by) her old school friend Freya. At the same time the investigation into the death of Tim Pieters is reopened and Ella Marconi has nowhere else to start but with the person who discovered his body, his friends at school and his family members.
There's some really good balancing of all of the elements in this story - Marconi has a work life, and a personal life, and they coincide and collide realistically. Whilst everything in her life isn't perfect, it's also not so imperfect that it's unbelievable (although I'd kill any boyfriend who taught my mother how to send text messages like that!). Georgie and Freya have their own lives as well - Georgie and her husband, away from their beloved country home and animals, Freya with kids and a husband she loves no matter what sort of a twit he can make of herself. Both women have a demanding work life, and a not straight-forward private life and the complications of their teenage friendship, the murder of Tim and how they went their separate ways creates a prickliness between them which really works. On the victim's side the damage that was done to Tim's family as a result of his murder is carefully displayed - the pain and struggle of his mother Tamara in particular is graphic.
The final balancing act, however, is to give a good cast of characters a great plot to work within. Resolving a cold case from so long ago isn't an easy task for Marconi, but persistence, focus, good sixth sense, and a willingness to put reluctance aside and work with the less than ideal partner that is assigned to her, and eventually the truth is revealed.
COLD JUSTICE is a terrific book. It would work as a standalone, or it works as part of the continuing story of Ella Marconi. It works as a character study, or as a plot driven police procedural. Basically it just works. Really really really well.