#Review – Cruel Winter by Sheila Connolly

Note – Previous installments of this series were published by Berkley Prime Crime.
I am thrilled they are continuing at Crooked Lane Books.

Cruel Winter: A County Cork Mystery
Cozy Mystery
5th in Series
Setting – Ireland
Crooked Lane Books
Release Date – March 14, 2017
Hardcover: 304 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1683311003



Snow is a rarity in Maura Donovan’s small village in County Cork, Ireland, so she wasn’t sure what to expect when a major snowstorm rolled in around Sullivan’s pub. But now she’s stranded in a bar full of patrons–and a suspected killer in a long-ago murder.

Maura’s been in Ireland less than a year and hasn’t heard about the decades-old unsolved crime that took place nearby, let alone the infamous suspect, Diane Caldwell. But the locals have, and they’re not happy to be trapped with her. Diane, meanwhile, seeks to set the record straight, asserting her innocence after all this time. And since no one is going anywhere in the storm, Maura encourages Diane to share her side of the story, which she’d never had a chance to do in court.

Over the next few hours, the informal court in Sullivan’s reviews the facts and theories about the case–and comes to some surprising conclusions. But is it enough to convince the police to take a new look at an old case?

Dollycas’s Thoughts

What happens when it snows in Ireland? Like Maura I had not really thought about it but Sheila Connolly gives us and Maura just a little taste of the Irish lands covered in snow.

The snow is falling and friends and strangers are gathering at Sullivan’s Pub to wait out the storm.  They have plenty of ale and fuel for the fire. Food is a little sparse but with a little creativity from Rose she stretches what she has enough to feed everyone. One of the strangers is Diane Caldwell, like Maura she had family that lived in the area, but she hasn’t been back to Leap in years. The local authorities had her pegged as the prime suspect in the murder of another young woman several years ago but never has enough evidence to make an arrest. Most of locals recognized her immediately.  So because of the snow storm she has a captive audience. Could there be a better time to tell her side of the story? Heck, her listeners may even be able to shed light on something that had been missed all those years ago.

At first I thought this was going to be a closed room type mystery where the real guilty party just happened to be in the room too, but Ms. Connolly gives the story a nice twist showing fresh sets of eyes and ears can uncover new clues on an old cold case. She lets Diane tell her story and Maura and the other patrons ask questions and test out theories trying to find some way to prove Diane really is innocent and maybe give the garda a new lead on this old crime.

The characters in this story are so rich. I love Maura, but I really love Billy. He is an elderly man that basically holds court in the pub each day telling stories. This time his knowledge of the history and the land in the area help Maura and the others to keep pushing forward with new ideas. The author has set the scene so well in all the books in this series it is so easy to picture him in his overstuffed chair in front of the fire regaling everyone with his thoughts about the case.

Connolly also describes the rest of the pub, including the basement, in such detail readers are given a bird’s eye seat for the whole story. Even the snow falling outside and the drafts around the windows are easy to see and feel. They were so real I found myself pulling a blanket around my shoulders to keep away the cold.

In addition to the main plot, Gillian has some changes coming in her life and she is getting near to having her baby. Jimmy has a new woman in his life and Rose is growing up so fast.

I have enjoyed every book this author has written and this one is no different. I am so glad Maura decided to stay in County Cork. That little bit of the Irish in me anxiously awaits for each trip to Sullivan’s where Maura pours me a pint and I can sit and relax among friends.

Thank you Sheila for another wonderful escape!

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 About The Author

Sheila is the author of many fantastic reads. She not only writes County Cork Mysteries, but the Orchard Mysteries and the Museum Mysteries too. Visit Sheila’s webpage to find out more about her and her books.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”