The Frost Trilogy

The Frost Trilogy

The Frost Trilogy — my mystery novels Permafrost, Mission, and Colorblind — is now available as an ebook bundle.

The Frost Trilogy brings together the mystery novels Permafrost, Mission, and Colorblind, which follow the amateur sleuthing of Tom Frost, a semi-retired businessman caught up in the cases of missing persons in northern Michigan, Boulder, Colo., and New Orleans, respectively.

Get the complete trilogy all in one place! All ebook platforms, including:

Five questions with Peter Robertson

Five questions with Peter Robertson

What made you write a book (Conclusion) that begins with a science fiction premise?

I’ve always read science fiction. These were among the first books I ever read, and I had this idea that I would write a book that would have a dystopian beginning but that it would evolve into an adventure story but that it would still function as a mystery.

Will there be a sequel to Conclusion?

I don’t think so. It begins and ends and doesn’t require anything else to happen beyond that point. I never intended for (my first book) Permafrost to have a sequel. I just wrote the book and put it aside for a long time. Then when I decided to write again, the most obvious thing I could think of doing was to continue Tom’s story but to move it forward a number of decades because I wanted him to be a better person. With Conclusion, I think it ends in a place where there’s not anywhere else you could go. Having said that, if Hollywood offered me a lot of money to come out with a sequel, I would somehow find a way to do that. But it’s a one-off book, and I’m very happy that it turned out that way.

Why did you decide to write about the northern Minnesota Boundary Waters?

My books usually begin with a desire to recreate a place that I find either wonderful or wonderfully weird. In the case of the Boundary Waters, I did initially want to write about it because I wanted to recreate it for people who have never been there. As I wrote, I was obviously aware that during this current administration, wilderness areas are being threatened far more than they’ve ever been threatened before. This is not a political book. I don’t have full knowledge of both sides of the argument, but I can say that there’s intense pressure to mine and to develop large parts of that area. This seems a terrible idea. My hope is that the Boundary Waters would be preserved just the way they are, so that my generation and future generations can enjoy them. So as I wrote there was a second agenda, a sense of responsibility, and a need to preserve the place.

When did you first come up with the notion of an alternate world where people would live a set number of years in good health and then expire?

I came across a short survey in the New York Times in which people were asked if they would agree to die at age seventy-five if they could have perfect health up to that point. My recollection is that young people were mostly reluctant, middle-age people were somewhat undecided, and older people were wholeheartedly behind this concept. None of these answers surprised me. I spent some time after that thinking about a world where this would happen.

The original version of Conclusion was much longer and it spent time in a kind of nostalgic NPR sort of way thinking about how this society would be. This musing took up 200 pages. I don’t think it was necessarily uninteresting, but I do think that the narrative didn’t really move at the speed I wanted it to go. It has occurred to me by now that I write mystery books that are also adventure stories. I don’t write thought-provoking nonfiction. It wasn’t awful to read; it just didn’t belong.

Why do you write?

I like to recreate places that I’ve found interesting. I also like to create places that I think I would find interesting if they existed. I’ve put a lot of myself into my books but not necessarily in the characters you might expect. But I’ve also put a lot of other people in there, too. All these things are real, and they make my books more autobiographical than many fiction writers would do or would admit to doing. I suspect that I do this because I want to preserve a record of myself and my world. There are recurring themes in my work; themes of homelessness and water. I’m not certain what they mean, but they clearly matter to me. I like to think that most of the characters in my books are optimistic. Most of them end up being mostly OK, having evolved somewhat in the narratives in ways that I hope readers find believable and interesting.

A new flavor in a new novel

A new flavor in a new novel

Conclusion, my latest book, comes out in October. As in my previous novels, I include fictional places and experiences inspired by my own.

I write about a city that closely resembles both Evanston and Chicago, places where I’ve lived. The final section of the book is set in the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, where I have gone on camping and canoeing trips a number of times.

I’ve also taken this opportunity to branch out, to take my narrative in a bold new direction: not just in theme, but with the addition of characters who cook.

At one point in the story my main character, Colin, takes to the kitchen to rustle something up. While I can’t cook, I do have friends who can. For the meal Colin prepares, I turned to a specialty of my good friend, Don Thomas. I thank him for letting me share it.

Beans and Rice, Sausage and Shrimp


Shrimp and Sausage, Rice and Beans

  • ½ lb. raw shrimp in shells
  • 1 lb. Andouille Sausage
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1+ cup chopped green pepper (poblano also works well)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • garlic to taste, minced not too fine
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 16 oz. can red beans, drained and washed
  • ¾ cup (or more) converted rice
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • Cajun spices*
  • Tabasco to taste

Shell shrimp and sprinkle some spices. Marinate for an hour or so.  Also throw the shells into 2+ cups of water and simmer to make a broth.

Have veggies ready

  • Heat oil in a sauce pan.
  • Disk the sausage 1/8 to ¼ inch.
  • Brown sausage in pan, medium heat, for 3 or 4 minutes, remove and set aside
  • Drop heat to low and sauté the onion about 3 minutes.
  • When the onion starts to wilt, add the pepper and garlic, continue over low heat about 2 minutes. Add Cajun spices.
  • Add the rice and mix with veggies for about 30 seconds. Add the broth, it should be hot. Your broth to rice ratio should be slightly more than 1 broth to ½ rice.
  • Mix everything then add the celery and ½ of the parsley. If you didn’t make the broth you can use water but, again, that’s your fault.
  • Set timer to 22, 23 minutes and cover. Still low heat.
  • At about 11 or 12 minutes remaining, return the set-aside sausage and mix in. Cover.
  • At about 8 minutes, add the beans and mix in. Cover.
  • At 5 minutes, add the shrimp and remaining parsley. Mix and cover.
  • Make sure the water is not cooking off. If needed, add water or any remaining broth.

Serve with crusty bread.

* No Cajun spices? Try using 1 tbs paprika, ¼ tsp salt, some oregano, some thyme, and some cayenne.

“I don’t get it. There’s no permafrost in Michigan.”

“I don’t get it. There’s no permafrost in Michigan.”

IMG_6680I’ve been asked before about the significance of the titles to the three books in my mystery trilogy—Permafrost, Mission, and Colorblind—featuring Tom, an occasional businessman following a series of hunches in intriguing and colorful locations. For the first two books I’ve attempted explanations before, but now that the series is complete I’m reflecting on how all three titles represent central ideas in the work.


The term permafrost was referenced once within the narrative and my intention was to use the word to refer to the chilled emotional stasis that the main character, Tom, found himself in. I had also hoped to contrast Tom with Keith, the man he is trying to track down. My sense was that Keith, while geographically far adrift, was the more emotionally connected and vibrant of the two men.


When I talked about “mission” I had several intended meanings in mind. It could be the church’s worthy pledge to aid the city’s homeless in the novel’s Boulder setting. It could be Tom’s desire to find the killer. Or it could refer to the killer’s obsession with cleansing the souls of his victims.


This is my first pass at explaining what colorblind means. In the narrative Tom recalls the school test that he (and I) failed miserably. A series of multicolored patterns yielded an unrecognizable figure or a recognizable figure; recognizable, that is, exclusively to colorblind people. The weirdness of that test and the extended metaphors contained within it have stayed with me.

But there is an alternate meaning contained in the title of my newest book. I’ve traveled to New Orleans over a dozen times in the last thirty years. It functions unlike any other American city, and notions of color and prejudice are often equally unique to that particular place.

Before I continue I should probably qualify that. Race conflicts certainly exist within the Crescent City. Katrina exposed the poor black underclass that the storm waters fed on, while those African Americans who did flee were the bulk of those who then chose not to return, thereby profoundly altering the landscape and the demographics.

Yet New Orleans history is littered with examples of groundbreaking racial mixing and harmony, and my own limited exposure to this wonderful place consistently confirms that if any place can lay claim to being “colorblind,” it would be The Big Easy.

The music of “Colorblind”: Soundtrack for a mystery novel

The music of “Colorblind”: Soundtrack for a mystery novel

It must be sickeningly apparent by now that I like music. I can even play guitar well enough to not get laughed at to my face. I’ve bought enough recorded music over the years to fill a small record store. Selling a collection of old punk vinyl partly financed my coming to America in the first place.

All three of my books namecheck copious songs and copious singers. Permafrost skewed towards country for the most part. Mission got a little more adult alternative. For Colorblind things stayed close to these two genres with some notable exceptions; Tom himself played and sang a selection of dated rock stuff mostly pulled from the sixties and seventies, and a handful of New Orleans music was shamelessly plugged as the narrative settled down in the Crescent City.

This list of music from the third book is far from comprehensive. Lots of artists are mentioned by name, but not by song titles (Two Gallants, Irma Thomas, Britney Spears, and Sham 69 to name a disparate few). The Gretchen Peters track wasn’t named but enough background information was provided to justify (to me anyway) its specific inclusion. Ditto for Badfinger’s “Baby Blue.” There are probably close to five million versions of Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluiah” out there and Jeff Buckley’s is my favorite, although both John Cale and Rufus Wainwright do the original proud in my humble opinion.

Speaking of Jeff Buckley; I had several real-life singers in mind when I wrote about Logan Kind in Colorblind. In the end his character ended up being a composite of several people, some passed away and others very much alive. Jeff Buckley was certainly one of the people I selectively borrowed from and I make no apologies for that. He died much too young and left behind Grace, one breathtakingly beautiful full-length recording, from which his rendering of “Halleluiah” is taken.

So, in largely the order in which they appeared in the narrative, here is the almost complete song list from Colorblind, which is also available as a playlist on Spotify.

Heart of Gold by Neil Young
This Town by Steve Earle
Action by the Sweet
Angie by the Rolling Stones
When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin
Dark Angel by Gretchen Peters (not technically named in the book)
Perfect Day by Lou Reed
Halleluiah by Jeff Buckley
Soul Love by David Bowie
House of the Rising Sun by the Animals
City of New Orleans by Steve Goodman
Maggie May/Reason to Believe by Rod Stewart
Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple
Alternative Ulster by Stiff Little Fingers
Shrimp and Gumbo by the Rebirth Brass Band
Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Desperado by the Eagles
St. James Infirmary by Allen Toussaint
Baby Blue by Badfinger
Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones
Here Comes the Sun/Let it Be/In My Life by the Beatles
You Are My Sunshine by Johnny Cash
Abide With Me by Mahalia Jackson
I Wanna Be Loved by You by Marilyn Monroe