Stand by for what might be THE outstanding opening chapter of the year. ‘Ice Cold Alice’ grabs you by the blimey-o-rileys and rattles your sensibilities until your eyes water and your stomach churns. We meet Alice in the worst way possible as she inflicts a pitiless penalty on a worthless excuse for a human. A man who degraded and abused the person he should have loved and treasured. A man the world won’t miss. Alice is a killer, yes, but she’s a killer with a clearly defined code and a moral mission. That message is rammed home with lethal accuracy in this outstanding introduction.
‘Ice Cold Alice’ isn’t simply a vigilante revenge romp, however compelling, violent and visceral the action sequences may be. Author CP Wilson switches perspective and timelines, zigzagging between Alice and the female police detective who’s tracking her. We see inside both their lives and learn how these two different women – both highly efficient, motivated and competent – have come to interpret justice in such radically different ways. Wilson subverts the standard gender stereotypes and explores the detective’s domestic situation. He inverts the usual ‘hard-bitten hard-drinking blokely bloke’ trope so beloved of crime fiction to create a real-world three-dimensional woman; someone who cares about her kids and her husband and her career, and who can’t quite find room for everything in her life.
At times the contrasts between chapters are so great that they’re a little disconcerting; the narrative leaps from suburban domestic humdrum to a savage beating in a heartbeat. I struggled to engage with the detective’s daily grind and matrimonial situation so my attention wandered during some of these segments – but I was absolutely fascinated by Alice and her complex back story. The short chapters mean you never have to wait too long to watch the next eye-opening event in Alice’s bitter existence, while the author’s quick wit and deft wordplay are entertaining throughout. Some of the plot devices stretched credibility to extremes – a multi-millionaire? How convenient! – but you can forgive that with a plot which barrels along so breathlessly. This book also contains an utterly stunning twist, right when you least expect it. I can say no more…
This story is much more than frothy popcorn, mind. ‘Ice Cold Alice’ can be read on many levels. It speaks to readers who enjoy domestic noir and ‘the girl’ type psychological thrillers. It’s stuffed with enough forensic detail, cliff-hanger chapters and stunning switchbacks to satisfy ardent thriller enthusiasts. And there’s a much more serious moral centre which underpins those crowd-pleasing aspects. CP Wilson asks hard questions about society, domestic abuse and shared culpability. If you see the damage being done but choose to turn away, does that make you responsible? If you’re not part of the solution, does that make you part of the problem? At its core, ‘Ice Cold Alice’ is a monstrous morality tale for the self-obsessed 21st century.
Like the thrillers written by Eden Sharp and HN Wake with similarly strong female protagonists (both of them thoroughly recommended, by the way), Wilson explores the territory which once belonged almost entirely to Andrew Vachss and his brilliant creation, Burke. All four authors deliver a sharp slap to the face of indifference – powerful stuff.
Finally, although I didn’t actually enjoy how ‘Ice Cold Alice’ ended, I was nonetheless utterly gripped to the final page: the hallmark of accomplished storytelling. I will definitely pick up the next thriller from CP Wilson.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
‘Ice Cold Alice’ by CP Wilson is available as an ebook or paperback
The author explains all about the background to ‘Ice Cold Alice’ in this no-holds-barred interview
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