The Girl in the Ice is the first crime novel for Robert Bryndza, an author better known for his frothy romantic comedies and it’s a doozy. Opening with the gruesome murder of a young, privileged and rich society girl, a murder that will form the focus of the rest of the narrative, the novel takes off at a cracking pace that doesn’t relent until the past page.
Detective Chief Inspector, Erica Foster, transferred from Manchester to London after some kind of recuperative period, hits the ground of her new job sprinting. She not only has to try and solve a high-society crime with very few leads, but deal with the hostility of some of her colleagues and interference and direction from the powers that be as well. Furthermore, there is a terrible recent tragedy in her past, and the demons memories of this conjure almost highjack Foster’s return to work, making her job even more difficult.
When Foster and her team start to realise that the killer they’re trying to catch has struck before and will again, catching the murderer becomes a race against the clock and more personal than Foster and the force are prepared for.
From the very first page, the story grabs you by the collar and drags you along at a furious speed. It also doesn’t steer away from gruesome (but you never feel gratuitous) detail – murder, after all, is a grisly, horrid event that affects everyone involved. Foster, who arrives carrying more baggage than Heathrow, while arcing people’s backs up initially, quickly wins over the reader and the more reasoned of her colleagues with her work ethic, intelligence and warmth. The suffering she also experiences, the grief that tries to break her, also endears you to her as she does everything possible not to let this impact on her professionalism. As a character, she is both remarkably strong and yet possessed of a vulnerability that gives her depth and complexity and places you firmly on her side at all times.
Saying this, however, there were two very small things that bothered me with the novel: the first was that Foster repeatedly argues with her superiors and does some really ballsy things in order to get her own way (which does and doesn’t work). Smart and clearly able to negotiate the complexity of egos in the force, I wondered about her repeating some of her behaviours when she was initially punished for them (even though those doing the punishing were clearly stupid and ill-informed). Narratively convenient, the repetition didn’t ring true for such a steadfast and competent character.
The other small bugbear I have is that there are a few chapters told from the point of view of the killer who is denoted as “the figure”. I am not persuaded these added anything to an already tight plot and pace… on the contrary, they detracted in my humble opinion and deleting them would have made no difference to the story.
Overall, this was a terrific, fast-paced read that gives crime fans another rich and interesting cop to love, ache for and champion through the few highs and terrible lows of solving crimes. Can’t wait for the next one, which I have already ordered!