Cold Hearted River by Keith McCafferty

Cold Hearted River

Keith McCafferty

Cold Hearted River is a thrilling adventure, moving from Montana to Michigan, where a woman grapples with the secrets in her heart, to a cabin in Wyoming under the Froze To Death Plateau, and finally to the ruins in Havana.

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In the sixth novel in the acclaimed Sean Stranahan mystery series, Montana's favorite detective finds himself on the trail of Ernest Hemingway's missing steamer trunk. 

“Keith McCafferty is a top-notch, first-rate, can’t-miss novelist.”
—C.J. Box, #1 New York Times bestselling author 

When a woman goes missing in a spring snowstorm and is found dead in a bear's den, Sheriff Martha Ettinger reunites with her once-again lover Sean Stranahan to investigate. In a pannier of the dead woman's horse, they find a wallet of old trout flies, the leather engraved with the initials EH. Only a few days before, Patrick Willoughby, the president of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club, had been approached by a man selling fishing gear that he claimed once belonged to Ernest Hemingway. A coincidence? Sean doesn't think so, and he soon finds himself on the trail of a stolen trunk rumored to contain not only the famous writer's valuable fly fishing gear but priceless pages of unpublished work.

The investigation will take Sean through extraordinary chapters in Hemingway's life. Inspired by a true story, Cold Hearted River is a thrilling adventure, moving from Montana to Michigan, where a woman grapples with the secrets in her heart, to a cabin in Wyoming under the Froze To Death Plateau, and finally to the ruins in Havana, where an old man struggles to complete his life's mission one true sentence at a time.

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Advance Galley Reviews

I read this not knowing anything about the series or the author. The story follows the myth of a lost trunk belonging to Ernest Heminingway containing premium fishing gear and potential samples of his unpublished work. I liked how this started, but as the story progressed, I had a hard time following the characters and maintaining interest. While I liked the descriptions of the Montana and Wyoming landscapes, I just didn’t have enough interest in fishing or Ernest Hemingway to make this book enjoyable. 2 stars for the characters and setting.

A western mystery about on of her favorite authors—Ernest Hemingway and his stolen belongings really sounded like a book I could get into. Sadly, I couldn't. I'm not sure if you had to read the other Sean Stranahan stories to become more involved with the characters or if I was just not into this book. Either way, I found the characters superficial, except for Sean and his buddies. I did enjoy the descriptions of the fly fishing, the rivers and the habitat. Sadly, I didn't finish it.

This was my first McCafferty, and I thought it worked on its own but dragged on towards the middle. I liked the literary references, but the writing and the mystery just didn't do it for me. I liked it enough to give McCafferty another try in the future, though.

While this book worked as a standalone, I just wasn't able to get into the story. I wanted more depth in the characters and the writing style was overly flowy, which made me lose interest in the story.

"Cold-Hearted River" is the first book in Keith McCafferty's Sean Stranahan series that I've read. I enjoyed the frigid winter setting and the Hemingway-linked mystery, but the characters, while interesting, were only superficially developed and the "mystery" was fairly easy to figure out, although the author did incorporate some clever twists and turns. Perhaps the surface treatment of the characters was only problematic since I haven't read the earlier books about them. Still, this book was a good summer read to combat the intense heat and humidity outdoors.

I found Cold Hearted River to be a western/mystery where the rugged wilderness helps to set the stage for the twists and turns of the mystery. One gets to learn about the sport of fly-fishing and gear that once belonged to Ernest Hemingway. I enjoyed that characters and the plot and look forward to reading more mysteries with Sean Stranahan.

From Amazon: "In the sixth novel in the acclaimed Sean Stranahan mystery series, Montana's favorite detective finds himself on the trail of Ernest Hemingway's missing steamer trunk." I have not read the previous five books in the Stranahan series, but this book worked as a stand alone mystery. (Often in mystery series, this has not been my experience. The characters' relationships tend to leave something to be desired if you don't know the background, but this was not a problem with COLD HEARTED RIVER.) The story of Ernest Hemingway's missing steamer trunk was new to me (I had heard of his lost briefcase on a train, of course, because what reader has not?). McCafferty does include how he first came to learn of the steamer trunk from Jack Hemingway at the beginning of the novel. Many collectors will tell you that the value of an object is entirely subjective, so while finding the suitcase of manuscripts would mean a great deal to me, I can understand why the steamer trunk is considered the same mythological item among fishermen. McCafferty creates a way for even those who are not fisherman, or those who are not familiar with the harshness of Montana's wilderness, to experience both without loosing interest. The characters were well developed, the plot line was interesting, and the mystery...stayed a mystery until the end.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It had beautifully described locations, and amazing story line and a vivid array of characters as the backdrop to the mystery of a lost treasure, murder, and a love story. This is the sixth book in the Sean Stramahan series but it is a wonderfully written stand alone story. Starting with a woman's unexpected death the plot quickly becomes a hunt for a long lost treasure of Earnest Hemingway's lost fishing trunk, missing for years.The book explores the past through episodes of Hemingway's life while on a journey to recover the treasure and solve a number of violent crimes. This vivid adventure moving through Montana to Michigan and even Havana along the rivers leads in great detail a story based on the love of fishing and loss. It was fun to learn that the book is based on a true story, making it all a little more real. this was a quick read and I would recommend it to anyone who loves a mystery, crime/detective novel or who has a passion and love for fishing. Fun well written book.

I haven't read any of the other Sean Shanahan books, but I will be remedying that soon! What pulled me to this novel even though I'm usually a stickler for reading series installments in order, was the impetus the author described for this one. I'd just returned from a vacation in Key West where we'd learned a lot about Ernest Hemingway and left me wanting more. To stumble upon this book seemed a sign of sorts...and oh, it was. I had no idea there was so much involved in fly-fishing, and at first the detail was a little over my head, but I stuck with it and began to see the imagery...not just the sport itself, but the narrative it supported. Wow. I loved Sean and Martha and am anxious to read more about their history together as well as their future. The settings in Cold Hearted River made me not only see and smell the Montana wilderness, but also feel the bitter cold and accept the mainstream occurrences...animals, characters, their motives, and of course the presence of a crime, a brutal one at that. All to protect artifacts or were they artifacts of a great American writer who had spent time at the fishing lodges and in the competitions where the story takes place. "Rivers, dreamed and undreamed, had always acted as mirrors in his life, showing him his reflection while keeping their secrets, at least those that had spots the size of dimes." I'm ready to go to Montana now!

I really liked the premise of this story. I really just couldn't get into this book. I kept reading it all the way to the end, but it took a lot. I had no interest in reading this book.

I gave the author a second try. The book started off intriguing ...I was not able to complete.

maybe if I had started with an earlier book in the series it might have been different, but I started reading this book 3 times and just could not get into it.

This was a book with an intriguing premise, stunning backdrops, and solid writing. I found the mystery itself to be a little bit hard to follow, but was interested enough in the Hemingway connection to follow the trail to the end. The descriptions of nature and the different states the sleuth travels to were my favorite parts of the book.

I received an ARC of 'Cold Hearted River' by Keith McCafferty from the First to Read program for free in exchange for my review. I have not read any of his previous work with the character Sean Stranahan. As a standalone novel, Cold Hearted River works well. The author builds and develops the characters excellently. Sean has a passion for fly fishing, art, and private sleuthing which work well with the mysterious death of an Austrian claiming to be the brother of a woman who died in a blizzard. The novel is very good and the characters are exceptional. I have recommended this book to several friends, particularly those from the Western states and those who love fishing.

Cold Hearted River, the sixth volume in Keith McCafferty’s Sean Stranahan series, is a definite must read for mystery fans. Intriguing and beautifully written, it will keep you up turning pages late into the night.

Even with perhaps one too many twists and one too many turns, McCafferty's Cold Hearted River is a well paced who-done-it, with a wealth of nature's vocabulary. Having an Ernest Hemingway angle does anything but hurt.

Although this is the 6th book in the Sean Stranahan detective series, this is the first one that I've read. Sean is an interesting character living in Montana who has many hobbies (painting, fly fishing) and becomes involved in murder investigations. This story begins with deaths in a snowstorm which leads to missing Ernest Hemingway fishing gear and more dead bodies. I would categorize this book as more of a "guy" read, but it should also appeal to any mystery lover. Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the free copy of this book.

I struggled to get into this book. The author researched so many things very well but it was difficult to read. This book is a mystery with a Western aura about it. The parts detailing Earnest Hemmingway, fly fishing, etc. were a delight and it was apparent that the author was equally fascinated with the subject. If you're into those topics, this might just be the perfect book for you!

This was a vey detail oriented western. Out back wilderness type of story. This is the first book from this author I've read and maybe that's why I felt like I was missing something but all and all wasn't a bad story butt also not much of a mystery.

Honestly, this was a boring book, the writing style is hard to follow.

Another solid mystery by McCafferty. The first chapter is masterful, a complete story unto itself. The end was needlessly complicated.

Chuck and Frieda Toliver are lost in the cold wilderness as the book opens and are then separated. When detectives Martha Ettinger and Sean Stranahan find Frieda dead, Chuck later commits suicide. From there, Martha and Sean investigate how these two came to be lost and Frieda dead while other bodies turn up murdered in their jurisdiction. When the connections relate to missing Ernest Hemingway memorabilia, Martha and Sean look around for a killer that may be closer than they think. "Cold Hearted River" is a very slow novel, one that I would classify more as a western than anything else due to its pacing and throwback lifestyle to limited cellphones and no Internet, where the wilderness rules and people are second to it. Martha and Sean also have a very complicated relationship that started earlier in this series and might have more weight reading those books first since it seems very volatile in this one. I couldn't tell whether they were in love or have no one else to put up with them. It's all very messy and complicated as most small town stories tend to be. Fans of Hemingway will respond with stories about the complicated writer that dominate most of the book. The closest I can compare this novel to is if Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich's series got serious about her job. With the series reaching this number, it's reached a fan base that I'm sure knows what they're doing to get this series this far. The writing is terrific and the slow burn of the plot makes you want to reach the next page, but it still felt like I stumbled onto a conversation that had already started and had that awkward time trying to fit in. For fans of the series or of 'Fargo'.

Wow....that was a lot of fly fishing info! And a lot of Ernest Hemmingway info! All mixed together to make a but of a mystery! This was the 1st of this author that I'd read, & I wonder if a reader might enjoy it more if they were more involved in the hobby of fly fishing....? I've also never read any of Hemmingway, so maybe wasn't so taken with that angle. I thought the story line seemed very 'busy', & I may have been distracted with all the fishing tackle! I do think I'll go back to the beginning book in the series, just to see if the fly fishing remains so central to this series? I did learn something about fly fishing, & E. Hemmingway....& learning is always a plus! I'll give it another try! It's definitely something different! I do want to disclose that I did win this e-ARC in a Penguin First-To-Read giveaway program, simply in exchange for my own fair & honest review.

I love to read mysteries and thrillers, and have not tried to read a western mystery prior to this one. I enjoyed it for the most part. The writing was excellent. The setting was described well enough that I could picture it in my mind easily. The mystery was okay. The Hemingway references were intriguing. Overall, not my worst choice for a summer read.

As I started reading this book, I couldn't imagine what drew me to it in the first place. There was a lot of talk about snow, mountains, elk, frozen lakes and let's not forget fly fishing. Not having a clue about any of these things, I assumed I was in for a long, boring read. I'm so glad I was wrong! It seems I enjoyed the book a bit more than some other reviewers. I enjoyed this book BECAUSE of how different it was from the books I normally read. I learned about Hemingway (at least I hope most of it was based on facts; I haven't Googled it get) and I learned ALMOST too much about fly fishing rods and tackle. (Is that the correct way to reference fly fishing equipment?) The story contained murder, mystery, romance (in a style I'm not familiar with), literary quotes, history, scenery, ... I was surprisingly looking forward to getting back to the story every chance I had. That being said, this is not a genre that I Am drawn to, but it was interesting for that very reason. Side note: There were distracting typos mainly in the 270's if somebody wants to fix that. There was also a part where I think they meant to say "heavier" instead of "lighter" when referencing Stokes' footsteps compared to Jackson's.

Cold Hearted River by Keith McCafferty is a pretty decent private detective story. When a woman gets caught on a mountain and dies, she is found with an interesting piece of fishing tackle, a piece most likely owned by Ernest Hemingway at one time, from a steamer trunk that was stolen decades ago. Sean Stranahan, our detective/artist/fly fisherman, sets out to locate the lost trunk and tackle and comes across a few dead bodies in the process. Hemingway's lost trunk is an interesting jumping off point and fits in nicely with the Montana setting. I learned a little bit about fly fishing and a little bit about Hemingway. I liked all of what seemed to be the main characters and think I could read the rest of the series because of them. All around it was a good read and I think it would be a great camping read. There was one little surprise at the end that I did not like and felt was unnecessary. I am referring to what happened to Margarethe (a lead/suspect in the missing trunk/murder investigation) as a young woman. It did not need to happen for the story to make sense.

Ok read. The Western genre is not one of my favorites, but the characters were interesting. The story line was a little convoluted, was it about Hemingway or fly fishing or a bunch of greedy people? Enjoyed the free book but would not buy it. The fact that it was the sixth in the series did not make any difference to the story line.

Slow start but it is enticing, to say the least. I got to say, however, that I was merely here for the book cover not knowing anything about the past (such as it being part of a series and it being #6 in the series). Part of it was uninteresting to me such as fly fishing and parts of it were dull and difficult to pass but overall I guess if you have read the books since book 1 then it would be your cup of tea.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book through First To Read. It is the second book I've read in the series. It is an entertaining read with some twists and a surprise I did not see coming. I enjoyed the Hemingway plot and references and learned a little about fly fishing.

McCafferty has penned another great mystery. The series follows the adventures of Sean Stranahan, an artist/fly fisherman/private detective. This time, the story incorporates Ernest Hemingway into the fold. The author is a wonderful writer, his descriptions (especially of the rivers Stranahan is fishing) make you feel like you are there. The character development, even of the minor ones, is thorough, you are made to feel like you actually know the people. The stories flow very well, and I especially appreciate that McCafferty manages to wrap up all the loose ends in his books, and doesn't leave you hanging at the end. The only complaint I can make about this book is that the main character, after several books, is getting a bit stale. The eventual seduction of every interesting woman he meets is cliche, almost like the author wants him to be James Bond. Other than that observation, the book is very good. Cold Hearted River is the latest in the series, but it could be read as a stand-alone book. I received an advance copy of this book from "First To Read" in exchange for a fair review. (I have submitted my review to Goodreads, LibraryThing, BookLikes, and will post it to Amazon upon the release date. Thank you!)

Interesting, but not entrancing. I liked the main character, but the story didn't seem to ever decide what it wanted to be about. There were just too many disjointed pieces for me. And, unless I missed something, the murder mystery never got actually solved. There were a lot of things that the story could have been about. We had fly fishing, we had friends and lovers, we had a number of murders, a number of suicides and possibly some death by misadventure, but the pieces never seemed to be part of a whole. It was just too much disjointed information to captivate me.

My first Sean Stranahan mystery probably won't be my last. Well written and engaging, with solid characters that deserve a closer look. Despite being totally disinterested in fly fishing, I did enjoy the way McCafferty wove it into the overall story. And I never felt like I had to read the first five books in the series to understand the current book.

For some reason I had a hard time getting into this novel by Keith McCafferty. Not one of my favorites by him. Thank you Penguin's First to Read for the opportunity!

Private detective mysteries set in fly fishing country are not typically my first choice when reading. However, "Cold Hearted River" by Keith McCafferty is a very pleasant surprise. I found myself quickly absorbed by the characters and their relationships, even though there are a few tropes I can do without. Must every woman he meets throw herself at Sean every single time? The writing is smart and fast-paced and does an excellent job explaining several historical and cultural details without them dragging down the story. It was interesting to read about Hemingway's passion for fly fishing and learning about the gear he favored and used. McCafferty's book is a fun escape into a cooler world of mystery, murder, and adventure.

While Cold Hearted River is the 6th book in the Sean Stranahan mystery series, it served as my introduction to the series, and I look forward to going back and reading the rest (I actually went to our local bookstore as soon as I finished this one to buy the first two for my husband to take on our family vacation). The stories take place predominantly in Montana and remind me somewhat of C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett series though the particular crime at issue in Cold Hearted River is more literary oriented than the crimes in Box’s books. This mystery features Ernest Hemingway extensively, specifically his fishing gear and a potentially undiscovered manuscript; a subject matter that delighted me to no end. McCafferty’s characters are an interesting bunch (in a good way), indicative of individuals I would expect to find in rural Montana. The mystery is intriguing if a bit drawn out; I loved the Hemingway storyline and its various components, but I was ready for it to be over before it was. As I frequently mention, I am a huge fan of cool book covers and prefer covers that relate to the story inside. This series contains distinct, unique covers that are very appealing and represent the tale being told. I always love that. Cold Hearted River was a nice change of pace for me; McCafferty writes beautifully, and the book was a joy to read. Thanks to First to Read for this ARC.

I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review via First To Read. I found it thoroughly entertaining and it definitely kept me curious as to where it would lead. This who dun it will definitely surprise you at the end! I highly recommend it!

I enjoyed this book for its characters more than the mystery. Even though I have not read any of the other books in the series, I didn't feel I was missing information about Martha and Sean (but now I want to read from the beginning to get more of their history). Martha and Sean had an easy banter and I found myself laughing aloud a few times at their dialogue. The mystery was good but somewhat muddied by the multiple characters who were a bit hard to keep track of. The Hemingway connection as the basis for the story was interesting. I certainly did not see the solution coming which always makes the story better for me. I will definitely recommend this to other mystery readers.

This is the first one of this series I have read, and as a fan of Hemingway, mysteries, fly fishing and western settings, I was pleased to have the opportunity to read Keith McCafferty's Cold Hearted River through the First to Read advance galley program. Because of my interests,I sat down to read it the day after receiving it, and was immediately enthralled. I found the characters to be well developed and interesting. I enjoyed writing style which is much like Hemingway's own, and found the plot and its twists to be masterfully crafted, with an ending I did not expect until the very last. I would recommend it to any mystery fan, and I'm going to begin to read the series.

I received this book through First to read. I sat down to read it soon after. This book just was not for me.. I found it to be hard to read at times. Some parts seemed to have too much written in that seemed unnecessary , while other parts seemed to be lacking. It was a very hard read for me. I had to re-read parts and at times I got a little confused.

This was the first of this series that I have read, note that you don't need to have read any of the previous books in the series to enjoy and follow the plot line in this volume which is a pleasant switch. Did not see the end coming until very late in the store line. Very good and readable book.

McCafferty has written another Western thriller. The plot revolves around fishing, Ernest Hmingway and trust. At any given point, the true nature of many characters can be questioned. In order to survive in this thriller, it is imperative to make the right choice at several points. There are many twists and turns as this story barrels to its conclusion. I'm already looking forward to the next ride.

I received this book through FIRST TO READ and as soon as I got it, I sat down to read it. My first thought was the cover and title makes it a "Oh I have to read this" book. Then, I started to read. The first chapter and beyond was difficult to read. I couldn't focus. I kept having to go back and reread the same sentence multiple times. The writing style was very hard to digest. The characters were impossible to get to know. They were more like paper dolls than real people. I got lost reading this book but not in a good way.

Rating: 2.75 Thanks to Penguin, I received an ARC for this book in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to like this book very much, the premise was very promising and the story itself was well-crafted (weighed down occasionally by the discussions of fly fishing), however, ultimately I could not get on board with the writing. The writing style was very reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway's style (Heminingway also features heavily in this book) who in turn was influenced by his years as a journalist. I enjoy Hemingway's style at times, but it did not work for me here. The short truncated sentences, describing merely events made me feel as though I was watching scenes unfold through a blurry screen, a constant barrier hampering my imersion. In addition, frequently events will be skipped over, and the reader only knows it happened because Sean will summarize it to Martha the next day, which only made me feel further removed and disconnected from the characters. This meant that the characters felt very two dimensional to me, I would recommend this book to those who want to enjoy a mystery novel and are not looking to get heavily involved with the characters.


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