Now, present-day Fairfax County, Virginia. Ellie finds her beloved dog, Bentley, mutilated. That’s just the start. The 1984 child and a second neighborhood kid in the present named Paul Bannon are both asphyxiated with their remains frozen. Enter Fairfax County PD Detective Jaxon Jennings. His profile is he hates to give death notifications, he drinks heavily when stressed, he still suffers from a divorce from ex-wife Victoria, now an FBI Agent, and the murder of their only son Michael still haunts him. A former FCPD cop, Victoria quits after blaming Jaxon for Michael’s death and joins the Bureau. She’s since moved on and starts a relationship with an Agent Emory Holt.
Jaxon teams up with Detective Sally Winston and they investigate the Bannon boy case. His demise occurred at the community swimming pool area that points at Luke and his friends as potential culprits due to certain evidence. Neighbor Mr. Lolly’s surveillance cam captures someone BIG tossing a body over the pool fence. The Medical Examiner’s office determines the 1984 little boy named Steward or Stewy Littleton was frozen for about 10-20 years. Some time later, local pets disappear and the neighborhood residents find them mangled. A gruesome pattern develops here: Butchered children and pets are found frozen in death. Jaxon and Sally have a murderer the media dub, The Swimming Pool Killer, working in the neighborhood.
The UnSub or Unknown Subject remains several steps ahead of the investigators that now includes Victoria and Emory. Via a series of Facebook messages/cell phone texts, Luke, Ellie, Jimmy, John, and another neighborhood boy in a family of suspect character, Quentin Jenson or Q, tracks the UnSub’s cell locales with a computer program. This sets up a parallel investigation by professional and amateur sleuths alike in efforts to box in the serial killer. These computer phone hacks put the kids squarely in the crosshairs of a crafty and brutal villain. They also open a painful chapter in some of the characters’ lives that have yet to heal.
The multiple state search for the UnSub results in horrific events as the killer mocks the professionals and amateurs every logical move. They just can’t get a grasp on the killer’s next steps and that leads to devastation. As pieces of the investigation finally do coalesce, including the identity of the UnSub and the bonus of Jaxon's relationship with Victoria rekindling, a very personal attack on him and the grotesque humiliation of a kid leaves him so depleted of investigative energy, he quits the case and the FCPD.
With Victoria deciding to leave Holt and stick by her ex-husband, the now can I say KnSub (my term) or Known Subject taunts Jaxon, Victoria, and the authorities with a brazen and disgusting display for the world to see. THAT fires up Jaxon to end this maniacal reign of terror by this serial killer but time isn't Jaxon’s friend.
The resolution hits the reader with revelation upon revelation like a tsunami upon a helpless island. The emotions of the people within this horrific tale and those that read it boiled and will boil over until the slam-bang conclusion including a little ‘bonus’ scenario that I sensed was coming in some manifestation but I just didn’t know when or how. Tragic. Simply tragic.
At first, I didn’t find Jaxon Jennings of great interest because Luke, Ellie and their friends drove the narrative at the start. But Jaxon became more interesting as his backstory unfolded. Nothing unfamiliar or shocking for we all have past hurts. A reader needs to root for the protagonist and I did both on and off the case. Same with the kids especially Luke and Ellie. However, I question if today’s youth would be so bold or might a better word be stupid. I say the same for the parents. If a crazed killer's loose, why have your children outdoors so late? I know kids can manipulate but come on. Who's the adult here? Maybe author Hale tipped his hand in his story construct so the events fit his thrilling narrative. I don’t know. I wouldn’t let my kids leave my sight.
However, this I do know. Frozen Past isn't for the faint of heart. It's one nasty R-rated thriller with liberal doses of profanity, animal, and child cruelty. It’s heartbreaking to know that such monsters do live among us and subject their victims to these various tortures and I suppose that’s the or a point of the story too. Hale set out to create a compelling thriller and he accomplished just that. I praise his craftsmanship, but can I say I enjoyed it? Not sure I’d go that far. I write crime stories as well so I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to these dark places where we live and dark spaces where we think. But I’m not sure I’d read Hale again despite his immense talent for crafting such an intense and horrifying thriller. Mostly too much language for me. Hale's a skilled storyteller and boy it’s on display with Frozen Past. I just don’t recommend eating before reading it.