Book Review: Cold Fury by T.M. Goeglein

12849229Cold Fury 
by T. M. Goeglein
Putnam Juvenile
July 13, 2012
313 pages
Source: Library Thing 
Early Reviewers Program

Jason Bourne meets The Sopranos in this breathtaking adventure

Sara Jane Rispoli is a normal sixteen-year-old coping with school and a budding romance–until her parents and brother are kidnapped and she discovers her family is deeply embedded in the Chicago Outfit (aka the mob).

Now on the run from a masked assassin, rogue cops and her turncoat uncle, Sara Jane is chased and attacked at every turn, fighting back with cold fury as she searches for her family. It’s a quest that takes her through concealed doors and forgotten speakeasies–a city hiding in plain sight. Though armed with a .45 and 96K in cash, an old tattered notebook might be her best defense–hidden in its pages the secret to “ultimate power.” It’s why she’s being pursued, why her family was taken, and could be the key to saving all of their lives.

Action packed, with fresh, cinematic writing, Cold Fury is a riveting and imaginative adventure readers will devour.(Taken from Goodreads.)

Opening Line

My name is Sara Jane Rispoli.

My Take On It

A little about me: I’m the girl who will always sit down and watch the AMC marathon showings of The Godfather (I AND II). I’m a sucker for The Sopranos, Good Fellas, Donnie Brasco, Casino, The Untouchables, heck, I even liked Married to the Mob. I’m a total History Channel nerd and I love any kind of mob related documentaries. So trust me when I say that if you, like me, are a fan of anything mafiaesque in nature, you are going to love Cold Fury. And if you are a fan of a kick ass heroine, then you are going to love Cold Fury. If you are a fan of non stop action in your reads, you are going to love Cold Fury. If you have ever lived in, visited, or just had a general fascination with the city of Chicago, you too are going to love Cold Fury. If you like fast paced thrillers interlaced with a supernatural vibe, YOU are going to love Cold Fury. And if you like hints of romance with the potential for more, then yes, you are going to love Cold Fury as well.

So let’s start with characters. I think Sara Jane Rispoli might be one of the most likable protagonists I have encountered. On the one hand she is very much the typical teenage girl. She stresses about school. She worries over her appearance. She wonders if she’ll ever fall in love. She feels lonely and isolated at times. She wants to go to her high school dance. On the other hand, Sara Jane has been living a lie. Her very close knit family is harboring a secret, one that breaks wide open when her mom, dad and little brother are abducted. Luckily she’s equipped to handle it because our girl Sara Jane, for all her vulnerability and self doubt, is one serious bad ass. First off, she’s a fighter. As in she has trained as a boxer. Guys, I LOVE this part of Sara Jane, and the scenes where she trains with Willy (who is just one of many cool characters in Cold Fury) and the scenes where she actually puts that training to use, are beyond awesome. I’ve seen heroines with sword skills and martial art skills but I think this may be the first book I’ve read with a heroine who boxes. It’s pretty clear that the author knows a thing or two about this sport and it was fun to read. And Sara Jane has got an awesome sense of humor to boot.There are loads of memorable lines in Cold Fury. 
Alongside Sara Jane are a cast of colorful characters. I’ve mentioned Willy, her trainer, but there is also her friend Doug who reminds me a bit of a toned down version of Tiny Cooper from Will Grayson, Will Grayson (that’s a HUGE compliment in case you are wondering.) There is Max Kissberg (aw, love that name!), Sara Jane’ potential love interest. And by the way, while there are hints of future romance in Cold Fury, it definitely takes a backseat to other aspects of the book. I’m a romantic, I like it in my reads, but in this case, I was okay with the minor role it played because I can tell that there will be more in upcoming installments.
There’s also Sara Jane’s family. Though already kidnapped by the time of the story’s start, we meet her dad, mom and her brother Lou through flashback scenes. We also encounter her Uncle Buddy and his detestable wife Greta. But Sara Jane has an extended family as well, the family that comprises The Outfit, and these are some of my favorite characters in the story. We meet Knuckles, head of The Outfit’s muscle, I know he’s supposed to be scary, and he is a bit, but mostly I found him to be a hoot. And there is a brief glimpse of a character who I think is sure to play a larger role in upcoming books: Tyler Strozzini, head of the Money division of The Outfit. There are scores of other memorable players at work in Cold Fury that I loved, Billy, aka Bully the Kid, from Sara Jane’s school, Police Detective Smelt, and of course the bat-shit crazy psychopath who is hunting Sara Jane down. This guy is UBER creepy for a variety of reasons. I can’t go into too much detail here but I will say that all of these characters are unique and well developed. Goeglein does an impressive job of juggling a large cast of players without confusing the reader in the slightest.

But what about the plot? One word: amazing. And inventive. Oh, that’s two words. But you guys, this story is so chock full of twists and turns, PLENTY of “Ah ha!” moments abound and even more “Whoa, didn’t see that coming” moments as well. Other than the first few chapters, where Sara Jane relays the past events leading up to the present, the story moves along at a very brisk pace. Boredom was definitely not a issue. And did I mention  that I love mafia history and documentaries? Well T.M. Goeglein has definitely done his research. There is so much history written into this story, it felt like a crash course on mob lore, and I totally, totally LOVED every minute of it. Whether it was  the details of Al Capone and other Chicago mob bosses, or the glimpses of speakeasy’s and tales of Prohibition, or the mysterious Capone Doors spread throughout the city, I gobbled it all up. After finishing the book I was immediately on my computer looking everything up just to see what was truth and what was fiction. I dare you to read this book and not find yourself curious to learn more about this part of America’s history.

And then there is the setting. I’ve never been to Chicago but it is very, very clear that Goeglein loves this city. I think it rocks when an author can take a setting and craft it so carefully, so lovingly, that it becomes a character unto itself. Stephanie Perkins does this with Paris in Anna and the French Kiss, Laini Taylor does this with Prague in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Beth Kephart does it with Barcelona in Small Damages, and T.M. Goeglein definitely accomplishes the same with Chicago in Cold Fury. I felt like I had walked those streets, sat in those diners and smoky bars, and rode to the top of the skyscrapers right along side Sara Jane.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises to me was that Cold Fury has a definite supernatural element to it. This part of the story is very subtle but that’s not to say it’s unimportant. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a really cool, unique inclusion, and it adds that extra ‘oomph’ to the plot itself. I enjoyed this part of the book, and it’s definitely one of the things I look forward to reading more about. In fact there are many occurrences in Cold Fury that screamed FORESHADOWING to me, which is all sorts of cool in my opinion. Every time I came across something that set those alarms off  in my head I jotted it down in a notebook. Guys, that book is full!  And this supernatural aspect reminded me of another mafiaesque series I adore: Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. If you are a fan of those books you should definitely give Cold Fury a try.

So in conclusion, Cold Fury was a wild ride. I love the people, I love the storyline and the history behind it and I love the action and kick butt heroine. I thoroughly enjoyed it’s unique premise and all the surprise elements that were included. And I appreciated the cleverness of the story and the seamless writing style of the author. I can’t wait to see where T.M. Goeglein takes us next.

4.5/5 Stars