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Running Cold

Running Cold

By: Steve Zell 
Publisher: Tales from Zell, Incorporated
Publication Date: June 2012 
ISBN: 978-0-984746835
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor 
Review Date: October 4, 2017

Think about the King classic Stand by Me and you’ll understand the feeling that comes over you at the onset of this read.

Michael Helm and his mother are racing to California in their Plymouth Fury to start a new life. Once there, Michael investigates their new town and basically sees a whole lot of dust, and a riverbed framed in ice plants that had managed to produce a “sprinkling of red flowers; enough to make the riverbed look like some giant with a bloody nose had run across it.” (Just one of many spectacular explanations!) The place also has a store called Big Jerry’s; a dilapidated building that would fit perfectly into any ghost town.

They’ve moved from the Helm House in Phoenix. It was there that Michael would play with his older brother Nicky – an artistic soul who is now dead. In addition, Dad has “left” the family, and now Michael and his mom (a woman who suffers from blinding headaches), have gone to his grandparents’ bungalow. This is a shoebox filled with mold and dirt that smells putrid, like old nicotine that came from Gramps Helm’s constant chain-smoking.

The first oddity about Michael is seen on that walk through town when he has a “run-in” with a very large seagull. But instead of the normal “fiery” anger that most people experience when they get mad, Michael turns cold. The feeling of horror that runs through his veins is like ice...and let us just say that bad things occur when Michael “turns cold.”

Soon he meets up with others who are enjoying the end of summer before school starts up again. Sandy Randall is a girl coming of age, so to speak. She has dealt with a growth spurt that has slowly turned her body from that of a tomboy into “girlfriend” material, and her buddies are starting to notice. Meeting and befriending Michael turns Sandy’s world upside down.

With Michael trying to fit in, and Mom getting a low-level job in order to create some kind of future for Mikey, readers set out on a path that includes everything from a kid’s fort that’s destined to be the spot of nightmares, to a monumental mystery involving a group “tracking” the Helm family.

The only downside to Running Cold, which does not negatively affect the story, are the editing/formatting issues. Putting that aside, author Steve Zell is always extremely gifted at mixing thrills with sci-fi, YA, mystery, and the darkness and fear that raises goosebumps to the nth degree. With Running Cold, he has done it again.

Quill says: You’ll need to sleep with the light on for more than a few days in order to shake the feeling that Michael Helm ignites within your imagination.

For more information on Running Cold, please visit the publisher's website at:

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