John J Niven - Cold Hands (4 stars)

Niven's Ayrshire-set book is blood-soaked thriller with moral questions

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John J Niven - Cold Hands

(William Heinemann)

There aren’t many books that make you want to read through your fingers, but Cold Hands is one of them. This grisly thriller – the first by Kill Your Friends author John Niven with an added middle initial – has all the gory details of a Saw film. But nestled amongst the depictions of blood, bare bone and the wintry Saskatchewan landscape is a moral quandary: does Donnie Miller, initially so likeable, actually deserve the agony he’s dealt?

Donnie lives in this prairie province with his loving wife and child. But when he finds their dead dog ravaged in the snow, he worries that the past he’s been running away from is troubled youth in Ayrshire. The story zips along, quickly reaching its brutal denouement. And while the final scenes feel over-played, Cold Hands is certainly one of the year’s smartest thrillers, as well as its most blood-soaked.

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