- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
When a town is as obsessed with winning the state basketball championship as is the fictional Washington state community of North Fork, the outcome can be tragic, as Tom Kelly graphically demonstrates in his debut mystery, “Cold Crossover” (Crabman Publishing, Rolling Bay, Bainbridge Island, WA, 360 pages, $14.99).
“Cold Crossover” the first of a series featuring Ernie Creekmore, is a mystery/thriller that combines the colorful history of Skagit County, north of Seattle and including several islands in Puget Sound, with present day real estate realities. Once the state’s premier small community basketball coach, with 19 years on the job — whose team almost won the 2000 state title — five years after his star player missed a shot and lost the title, Creekmore is one of several agents selling vacation properties and year-round residences, mostly in the Lake Wilhelmina area of the county. (Don’t look for these places on any map; they’re fictional. I’m guessing North Fork is a stand-in for Mount Vernon, the real county seat of Skagit County).
Linnbert “Cheese” Oliver, hard-luck high school basketball hero, is missing on a late-night ferry. And for real estate agent Creekmore, his father figure, friend, and former coach, the news hits hard. Ernie’s suffered too much loss and pain in his life—his wife, a state basketball championship, and to top it all off, a mysterious medical condition that may or may not be life threatening —and he just can’t accept the idea that Cheese might have taken his own life.
Working with sheriff’s detective Harvey Johnston, Ernie uses his contacts in real estate and hoops to trace Cheese’s movements. Meanwhile, hints at possible foul play turn up in pieces of North Fork’s rough-and-tumble history in fishing, logging, and railroading, and the past and the present violently collide in a series of moments that peel back layers of greed, secrets, and twisted family ties that refuse to stay buried.
Along the way, Creekmore starts to adjust to the death in childbirth of his beloved wife Cathy. As the book ends, we see a possible, even probable romantic interest for the old-school coach/real estate agent. How old school? The guy doesn’t even have a cell phone, for goodness sakes! Can you imagine a real estate agent without at least one cell phone? And his choice of vehicles — an old VW Bus and a 1963 International Travelall — reflect his old school practicality. He inherited the truck from his fruit-growing dad in Yakima. For those not familiar with this latter vehicle, think Jeep Cherokee, the full-size version without the fake wood, or Chevrolet Suburban. Ernie Creekmore is an easy-to-like protagonist and “Cold Crossover” is a very well written debut novel.
About the Author
Cold Crossover is Tom Kelly’s first step into fiction and the first of the Ernie Creekmore series. The second book in the series, Hovering Above a Homicide, will be released in Spring, 2013.
Tom served The Seattle Times readers for 20 years, first as a sportswriter and later as real estate reporter, columnist and editor. His weekly features now appear in a variety of newspapers including the Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle, Portland Oregonian, Louisville Courier-Journal, Tacoma News Tribune andSpokane Spokesman-Review plus hundreds of websites.
His ground-breaking book How a Second Home Can Be Your Best Investment (McGraw-Hill, written with economist John Tuccillo) showed consumers and professionals how one additional piece of real estate could serve as an investment, recreation and retirement property over time.
His other books include Real Estate Boomers and Beyond: Exploring the Costs, Choices and Changes of Your Next Move (Dearborn-Kaplan); The New Reverse Mortgage Formula (John Wiley & Sons); Cashing In on a Second Home in Mexico (Crabman Publishing, written with Mitch Creekmore), Cashing In on a Second Home in Central America (Crabman Publishing, written with Mitch Creekmore and Jeff Hornberger), and Bargains Beyond the Border (Crabman Publishing).
Tom’s award-winning radio show “Real Estate Today” has aired for 19 years on KIRO, the CBS affiliate in Seattle. The program also has been syndicated in 40 domestic markets and to 450 stations in 160 foreign countries via Armed Forces Radio.
Tom and his wife, Jodi, Dean of the Humanities College at Seattle University, have four children and live on Bainbridge Island, WA.