4.5 stars out of 5
After seeing quite a few rave reviews of this book from friends at Goodreads.com, I decided to give it a go myself. But then other books came along, and I pretty much forgot about it until recently. Now that I've finished it, I'm a little annoyed with myself for putting it off for so long. On the plus side, the next in the author's series featuring detective Erika Foster - The Night Stalker - was released earlier this month, and I don't plan to let grass grow under my feet the second time around.
After reading just a few pages of this one, I learned two things: First, it would be a good old-fashioned, hard-boiled detective novel, and second, the author would not (to my great relief) shift chapters from past to present as seems to be the trend du jour among novelists in this genre. The story itself got my attention from the git-go as well: the body of a young woman is found under the ice in a South London pond. Erika, who is still mourning the death of her policeman husband and chastising herself over her actions that possibly caused it, is brought in to help find the killer of the girl in the ice because of her expertise in solving murders.
Of course, nothing comes easy; in part, the investigation is impeded at every turn by the father of the dead girl - a wealthy businessman who rubs elbows with Labour Party heavyweights and looks down on people with Slovak heritages like Erika. Then, three similar murder cases surface - prior killings of three female prostitutes. Adding more fuel to the investigative fire, the sleazy woman Erika cajoled into snitching about a suspect turns up dead as well. By now, Erika is convinced they're all connected. As the investigation proceeds, run-ins with the victim's influential family get Erika kicked off the case; but Erika - a strong woman who won't take no for an answer when she believes she's right - keeps poking around in places her boss doesn't want her to go and suddenly finds herself put on leave.
That brings up another point: All the characters here are well developed, especially Erika. But did I like her? Well, not all that much; she's been around the block more than once and is tough as nails, but her pushiness, especially with her boss, made me pretty sure we'd probably never be close personal friends. Still, she's intriguing - and definitely a good detective - so whether we'd ever share tea and crumpets really doesn't matter a whit. That said, I admit to being a little surprised at how quickly she - clearly an outsider - is accepted by the team she was brought in to oversee.
It wasn't a surprise, though, that being on leave doesn't stop her for long; even though she has no official authority, she keeps digging (with some unofficial help from her team). But the more she learns, the more she angers the killer - who then decides to add the detective to his or her hit list. The game is on; will Erika nail down the killer before the killer nails her?
Since we all know there's a sequel featuring the good detective, I'm not spoiling anything by saying that she lives to see another book. But what she goes through to get to the end of this one (some of which made me ponder just how much abuse a body can take before giving out) kept me turning the pages as fast as I could. And for those who care about such things, no, I did not guess the killer's identity until the author wanted me to.
All told, it's a very enjoyable police procedural. Now I'm off to get my hands on the next installment.
The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza (Bookouture, February 2016); 396 pp.