The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza is the first instalment in the Detective Erika Foster book series. It is a British crime thriller that I read on my Kindle. I originally tried to read this last year, but due to a horrid reading slump I had to DNF it. But the story always remained in the back of my mind with most of the details staying fresh. I really wanted to learn who the killer was and what their motives were. At the beginning of April, after a horrednous temporary illness, I picked The Girl in the Ice back up again because I was craving a fast-read. Since I still recalled everything that happened up to when I DNF’d (45%), I was able to pick up exactly where I left off. I am happy that I returned to the book because I found a new series to indulge in.
The book begins with the discovery of a dead body beneath the surface of a frozen lake in England. It is quickly established that the woman discovered in ice is from a very prestigious family, making the case a high-profile scandal. Detective Erika Foster, who has returned to duty after a terrible loss, is called in on the case. Due to the sensitive nature of the crime and victim, she ends up having to battle police politics and the emotional fallout that stems from investigating a case of this calibre. As she unravels the mysteries surrounding the victim and the murder, shocking revelations will lead her to an unimaginable suspect.
This was a good book. Labelled as a thriller, I was surprised by how well the suspense and intrigue were written, especially for a first instalment. The tension was at-times subpar, bringing you close to feeling anxious and eager, but it never quite followed through. Regardless, the meticulous revelation of seemingly trivial details does a marvellous job of stacking together towards a climax that was shocking. I was completely gripped to the novel from the first page unto the last, even when I took a small break from reading it. I feel that this is the mark of a great writer, specifically where the thriller genre is concerned. To make the story stick to the reader, even after they have stepped away, is a challenging task to complete.
Erika Foster was a main character that I was not expecting to like, as my first impression of her was not a nice one. She came off as being terribly rude. But the more that I get to know her, her past, and the way that her mind works when she is working a case, the more I became invested in her. I was able to see her through a new lens that explained her demeanour. Some of my favourite Foster traits include how gutsy and opinionated she is, especially regarding police politics. She voiced many of the frustrations that I had, which illustrated her powerful ethical loyalties to the victim. When you combine this with her flaws and personal struggles, she ends up having much more depth than initially perceived.
Another aspect I wholeheartedly appreciated were the inclusion of diverse characters on Erika’s team. We have a black man and a lesbian woman with a wife and a child. I loved the way the woman was portrayed as her marriage to another woman was beautifully natural and normal. Other books I have read usually have people reacting dramatically to finding out that one of their colleagues or friends are gay, however, in this book it was just a statement of fact. The character is just a person with a family like anyone else out there. It made my respect for the author deepen.
The writing as a whole, while being good, was not without its imperfections. The pacing varied between fast to moderately slow, depending on where the focus was being held. The action sequences, of which there were a few of them, were missing something integral; a quality to grip the reader in anticipation, which made them feel lacklustre. The plot twists used overall were developed from common tropes within the thriller genre that I found disappointing. I was hoping for more unpredictability or originality to the twists. This is more of a personal preference as it does not make an impactful difference in the narrative as a whole. Fortunately, the finale of the book had a much better grasp on the concept of suspense, playing on a string of emotions. It felt tight and tense from one scene to another until the ultimate climax, which really helped to fill out the other shortcomings.
Another mediocre aspect is the culprit. The killer’s identity was also relatively predictable, so when they are revealed, it felt mildly anticlimactic. More than a few connections to this person became apparent early in the novel, making it a waiting game more than anything else. This detracted from the mystery of the crime somewhat, evaporating a lot of the tension that I mentioned earlier.
There was also one death in the book that was severely abrupt, not fitting in with the rest of the story in any fluid means. In that moment when it occurred, I felt it was written as a rushed means of convenience to tie off a loose end rather than to work as a complementary addition to the plot. When the death occurred and the decision on the manner of it was made, I was waiting for a plot twist to occur. It would have made much more sense for the nature of this death to be exposed as something completely different; adding genuine and natural shock value.
With all of these minor flaws, there is one major defect in the book that I did not particularly care for and that is the way that women are portrayed. Women, including Erika Foster, were clearly written by someone who does not understand them. There were numerous times where much of the dialogue came off as fabricated, romanticised, or plainly ingenuine. They felt like things that a man would expect or want a woman to say rather than how she would realistically say them. I am hoping this improves as the series moves forward because, with this exception, the author has great potential to be an amazing contributor to the thriller genre.
Overall, I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy crime fiction thrillers and are in the market for a series of them. I would advise you go into it with a grain of salt as it is far from being perfect. Yet, it is short, fast-paced, and absorbing enough to keep you guessing until you reach the end. If you decided to pass on reading it, I can also say that you are not missing out on anything mind-blowing or brilliant.
3.25 kitties outta 5!
TRIGGERS: Rape. Physical abuse. Animal abuse. Mild sexist dialogue. Racist dialogue towards Eastern Europeans.
PLEASE NOTE: The book is written by a British-Eastern European author, so the language and spelling are very British in nature. I read a few reviews where this was off-putting to a lot of readers. For anyone unfamiliar with British English, it can definitely take some adjusting, but I would not discount reading the novel because of it. In my humble opinion, it adds to the authenticity as the story does take place in England.