Idal “Iddy” Bisset may have spent the last few years being homeless, but it was better than being neglected or abused by his parents. He’s come to terms with being an unperson in the eyes of society. With the help of Gary and Bot, and to a lesser degree Calaca, Iddy has a social network of fellow homeless folks that helps them all survive living on the streets. But one night, Iddy is on his own finding shelter from a bitter winter night. Being gay in an actual homeless shelter is a risk he’s not willing to take, but Iddy lucks out finding a dark locker room with a poorly fit door. Instead of a sanctuary from the cold and wind, Iddy gets jumped by something—a predator—bigger, stronger, and meaner than any human.
Iddy is surprised to wake from the attack, but wake he does. Iddy also meets Ben Hasek, an attractive police officer who seems to have good intentions. When Iddy lets his real name slip, however, Ben immediately recognizes it from a missing persons report. Rather than risk being put back in touch with his abusive family, Iddy runs…right back to the locker room where he was attacked. This time, however, he meets Nathan Leitner, the owner of the spa attached to that locker room. Nathan is a none-too-gentle giant, but his edges are soft enough to allow Iddy a chance to warm up…and something a little more. Despite the sexual gratification they share, Nathan doesn’t seem like the kind of man full of warm fuzzy feelings. Iddy decides to go back to the streets, only to find that some terrible—and quite literal—monster is targeting homeless men. Before long, Iddy has a couple of close calls with it himself. Despite the sheer terror of coming face to face with the monster, Iddy finds enormous sympathy for the being…a being that seems incredibly familiar to him, and one that seems to be able to control itself enough to spare Iddy, even to avenge Iddy on a few occasions. But with the police hot on the heels of the monster, can Iddy do enough to keep the creature safe?
Cold Snap is a dark urban fantasy/horror story from Sam Clover. I completely forgot everything about the blurb when I started reading and, in hindsight, the official blurb doesn’t give much away. Meaning that I walked into this story pretty blind with zero expectations. Frankly, despite having Iddy star in the first chapter, when it ended with Iddy being attacked and a “fade to black” type of wrap up, I half thought he was just fodder to set the scene. Turns out, he’s the lynch pin for the whole story, the main character, and the “fulcrum” of a fascinating love triangle. Let me tell you how thrilled I was to realize that Clover was mixing a love triangle into a gore- and terror-filled story!
Because Ben gets introduced first, I immediately warmed up to a “cop falls for a vagrant” thread. But, like Iddy, I wondered how a relationship between the two of them would work. And there would likely always be feelings of doubt on Iddy’s part—did Ben have a savior complex, was he just looking for sex with a pretty person, etc. Nevertheless, I quickly assumed I’d be shipping Iddy and Ben. So when Nathan shows up and allows Iddy to clean up in the showers at his spa and that scene then evolves into some steamy shower sex, I was full of sympathy for poor Ben. I think part of this is simply due to Ben seeming like the “right” choice, the warm and open, kind-hearted police officer in contrast to Nathan, the gruff and cold “tough guy” persona. That said, over the course of the book, neither man’s disposition seems to change that much…but I very much warmed up to the idea of Iddy and Nathan. Nathan might be a dark horse, but I think readers can eventually come to terms with the fact that he still has genuine feelings for Iddy. And I still had sympathy for Ben, if only because Ben gets caught spewing out a jealous tirade when he realizes he doesn’t have a monopoly on Iddy’s affections.
One enormous plot element is, of course, the monster. As I read, it seemed fairly obvious who the monster was…but regardless, the double identity of the monster worked well in the overall suspense of the story. For one thing, I wondered if the monster be “outed.” I wondered if the humans would actually believe a being could shape-shift without seeing it for themselves. I wondered if the monster could or would control its murderous tendencies for Iddy’s sake. That last question had me making comparisons to a dark sort of Beauty and the Beast, the way Iddy tries to draw out the rational, non-killer aspects of the monster.
While the monster is generally shown to be a lethal, merciless killing machine, there are also enough scenes where I thought I could appreciate—and this what Iddy latches onto, as well—that the monster is simply being true to its nature. The monster enjoys literally tasting the fear of its prey, enjoys hunting it and killing it…much like regular humans enjoy their favorite food and we don’t begrudge people enjoying a steak, right? It’s an interesting justification vis-a-vis what’s, er, on the plate so to speak. Readers also get to experience some parts of the story from the monster’s perspective (though everything is third person omniscient). I do think it is a bit unfortunate that the monster’s POV is introduced so late in the story. By the time I got to hear some of the monster’s thoughts, I already pretty much had the character written off as simply “monster.” That said, the reality is more nuanced and, eventually, I was able to fully appreciate that I was wrong about the monster being nothing more than a monster.
Overall, I think this is a horror/thriller story quite unique from anything else I’ve read. The gory horror bits are noted fairly frequently, mostly as mentions of blood and a sprinkling of descriptions of how the monster kills its prey. Generally, I stay away from horror movies; however, I personally like gothic horror and have enjoyed a horror podcast called The Magnus Archives. For readers in the same boat, I think you’ll find this book intriguing. I also loved the way Clover works the love triangle across the whole of the book. Like the monster itself, the love story has nuances, grows, and changes throughout the story. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories that feature complex human relationships, horror, misconceptions, and/or characters from nontraditional backgrounds (in this case, notably being homeless).