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Cold Dark Matter: A Morgan O'Brien Mystery [Paperback]

Alex Brett
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 1 2005 A Morgan O'Brien Mystery (Book 2)

Short-listed for the 2006 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel

A Canadian astronomer commits suicide on a desolate mountain peak in Hawaii, and Morgan O'Brien is sent to the observatory to find his missing data. But it seems she's not the only one who needs those notebooks, and her competitor is willing to kill to get them. But why? To find the answer, Morgan travels from the peak of Mauna Kea deep into Ottawa's past, where the darkness of the Cold War still obscures the truth.


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Review

This is more than just a fine mystery. It's full of fascinating information, all told in understandable language. The message, when it comes, is chillingly clear.
(Margaret Cannon)

Canadian mystery writers are a determined bunch. When the world still offers mere grudging respect, they labour on bending out of shape to show that no matter how much American and British content swamps the market, there's a growing case for made-in-Canada mystery. Alex Brett is a champion of the cause. Although still a neophyte in the business with her second serial mystery (Cold Dark Matter) being launched today, she's part of a new wave washing foreign shores. And not before time ... Award-winning Canadian mystery writer Peter Robinson, calls Brett's protagonist 'a welcome addition to the growing list of female PIs.' Robinson is not a man loose with his praise. Dundurn, a Toronto publishing house snapped up her first science mystery, Dead Water Creek, and spun Brett into one of the country's hot new novelists. 

...the second episode in a clever new Ottawa-based mystery series starring research fraud investigator Morgan O'Brien...Brett a former science researcher, now science writer, knows how to draw the line on pure science and where to inject actual evidence of Canada's Cold War atrocities against segments of its own science community.
(Mike Gillespie)

You could call Alex Brett Ottawa's lesbian Agatha Christie. But that wouldn't be entirely fair. Unlike Christie's lightweight books, Brett's murder mysteries have a heavy twist of science for the masses. And that requires a dense writing style that forces the reader to pay attention lest they miss the details.

Sometimes a mystery isn't just a whodunit. Sometimes it uses lively plot and appealing characterization to check out society's learning curves...Cold Dark Matter is a fast-paced reminder of times gone; [it] also constitutes a kind of parable for the present; explore[s] what can happen to the innocents caught in the crossfire between science, politics and power; in this [Brett] succeeds very well.
(Joan Barfoot)

Cold Dark Matter is Brett's second Morgan O'Brien mystery, the follow-up to Dead Water Creek. I have to say that even though I enjoyed the first, the second is even better. I'd hazard a guess that it won't be long before Brett wins an Ellis Award.


...a fun mystery with great characters...the settings are all cold, even in Hawaii. Yet there is a deftness of description that wraps a blanket around the reader, providing warmth while trying to figure out the next obscure turn of plot and character development. The subject matter is serious; the style is light and breezy. With summer around the corner, this would be a good book to set aside for your holiday reading.


The impact of modern astronomy is felt in Alex Brett's Cold Dark Matter...Brett, a science writer and field research technician deftly pulls off the near-impossible by helping the non-scientific reader grasp some general principles of astrophysics; specificially, that of cold dark matter, the unseen mass which sits as a halo just beyond a galaxy's visible edge. This is mystery writing at its very best; an intelligent plot, always-surprising characters, and a deeply-textured setting. 


Cold Dark Matter achieves the balance between science and sleuthing that the first O'Brien story never managed... The story zooms along, snatching us up in the opening scenes and never letting us go until the finale."


Alex Brett is a champion of the cause. Although still a neophyte in the business with her second serial mystery launched in February, she's part of a new wave washing foreign shores."


[Cold Dark Matter] is a well-researched book based on actual events and is much better than the usual detective thriller




This book has everything a reader could want: fabulous, exotic settings; a protagonist you'd like to spend time with; unusual characters; a bit of romance; exploration of important issues; and a plot that kept this reader up until dawn

Buy Cold Dark Matter. Encourage your local bookseller to stock it.

(Carroll Johnson)

Short-listed for the 2006 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel

A Canadian astronomer commits suicide on a desolate mountain peak in Hawaii, and Morgan O'Brien is sent to the observatory to find his missing data. But it seems she's not the only one who needs those notebooks, and her competitor is willing to kill to get them. But why? To find the answer, Morgan travels from the peak of Mauna Kea deep into Ottawa's past, where the darkness of the Cold War still obscures the truth.

Book Description

Murder in the stars.


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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Riveting Novel Exposes a Truly Dark Secret Feb. 15 2007
By Debra Purdy Kong TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Hawaii, astronomy, and the Canadian government are three things most Canadians know a little something about. What they and other mystery readers might not know can be found in the pages of Alex Brett's engrossing novel, Cold Dark Matter. Ottawa-based Morgan O'Brien, investigator for the National Council for Science and Technology, is asked by her colleague and friend, Duncan, to retrieve the research diaries of an astronomer who apparently committed suicide while working in Hawaii. Morgan's questions about the suicide and the diaries' content lead her into a labyrinth of secrets, betrayals, and cover-ups stretching back to the Cold War era. Among the many appealing aspects of this book are vivid descriptions of a Hawaii I thought I knew, insight into the competitive world of astronomers, and revelation about a horrific and unfortunately true event in Canadian government history. You'll have to read the book to learn what the government's shameful Fruit Machine was because if I told you, you'd never believe me. Read the book. It's a great story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I was hooked from Chapter One..... Feb. 13 2005
Format:Paperback
COLD DARK MATTER
Alex Brett made an auspicious appearance two years ago on the Canadian mystery-writing scene with her first Morgan O'Brien Mystery, Dead Water Creek, a book that Margaret Cannon of The Globe and Mail called "an excellent debut novel". And it was. Now she has returned with the second novel in the series, Cold Dark Matter. And once more, Brett's grasp of complex scientific issues, and her ability to explain them to the lay reader, comes to the fore. In Dead Water Creek the subject was salmon research, and the complex and interesting people who carry it out. In Cold Dark Matter, as the title and the cover illustration suggest, the scientific issue under the microscope (or telescope) is astronomy. And Brett does tell the reader a lot about astronomy, the technology involved, and the people who pursue that discipline. But, as in Dead Water Creek, the real story is about the lives of the people involved.
And there is also a fascinating and insightful description and discussion of another, equally important, scientific issue that for a time captured the interest of the Canadian federal government, an interest lodged in the near-paranoia that gripped Canada and the United States both in the Cold War era. The world knows only too well about the horrors of the political and social witch hunts in the United States in what is usually referred to as the "McCarthy Era". I think many readers in Canada will be surprised to learn that Canada had its own "witch hunt", in which careers and lives were destroyed. It was, in essence, a shameful example of the perversion of science, supposedly in the interests of national security, and it was funded by the federal government.
But a mystery novel will not fly on the wings of scientific and social issues alone.
Read more ›
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2.0 out of 5 stars A Review of "Cold Dark Matter" by Alex Brett Feb. 8 2006
Format:Paperback
This novel was a disappointment; it received rave reviews from The Global And Mail and mystery-related publications, so I had high hopes, and with its science theme (astronomy) I had to give it a try. It's about the mystery behind the death of a Canadian astronomer in Hawaii. The protagonist is sent from Canada to investigate it, and she discovers there are a lot of politics and intrigue behind why he died.
I stopped reading it about half the way through; it bored me. I didn't care about the mystery. The characters seemed superficial and contrived, and the story was getting silly, with too much spy-like events occuring to be credible.
The Canadian author received rave reviews for their first book, Dead Water Creek, but I have my doubts about it now if it's anything like this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Far reaching May 23 2005
Format:Paperback
A beautifully written book with great characters, spectacular setting, quick pace and amazing plot that will keep you trapped until the last page. Recommended with Seventh Deadly Sin, Triple Agent Double Cross, Disciples of Fortune as far-reaching books to captivate the mind of a reader.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Astronomy and Murder Mingle Aug. 17 2011
By Alison S. Coad TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
"Cold Dark Matter", by Alex Brett, is the second in a series featuring Morgan O'Brien, an Ottawa investigator who is attached to the Canadian National Council for Science and Technology, whose usual beat is fraud investigation. But she's asked, by her old boss Duncan, who is himself in a precarious state concerning custody of his two children some years after a divorce when his ex-wife begins to demand custodial rights, to look into the apparent suicide of a Canadian astronomer who is working at a world-class telescope in Hawaii; the astronomer's diaries are missing, and something just doesn't feel right to Duncan. So in good faith, and with little information, Morgan flies out to Hilo and finds that things are far more mysterious than they already seem: the suicide is actually murder, there are dark forces working against her, and there's an extremely fit and good-looking cop who might help her or might shove her into jail. When more bodies appear, and more mystery looms, Morgan makes her way back to Ottawa, where the Cold War past holds clues to all the mysteries, if she can live long enough to figure them out.... I liked this book; it doesn't talk down to readers, assumes a certain level of scientific awareness but doesn't assume that every reader will understand the finer points of astronomy; it also makes a point of the often-overlooked fact that 1960s Cold War mentality, beyond the capitalism/communism schism, included the concept that male homosexuality was criminal and usable as a means to force people to give secret information to the enemy and *was* used in that way (lesbianism was barely on the radar then, because of course then women had almost no power that could be exploited in the same way). Read more ›
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