Neither Nordic noir nor Scandi crime, The Ice Star is an action-adventure pursuit story which barrels back and forth across Greenland’s Arctic landscape. This is not an atmospheric, melancholic exploration of the long night of the Scandinavian soul, but rather a runaway sledge ride from one shoot-out to the next. The strong female protagonist is, in this instance, a junior officer in Denmark’s Sirius agency – and Konstabel Fenna has no idea just how radically wrong her mission to the frozen north will go. Together with her experienced colleague, she’s tasked to recover some kind of mislaid military hardware; only Sirius has the experience and the equipment to accomplish the mission. But as Fenna drives her dog team northwards, it becomes rapidly clear that not all of the wolves stalking her walk on four feet…
The first part of the story is told in a flashback / split timeline, which I found fairly irritating. Fenna is being interrogated after everything has gone wrong in the worst kind of way, and her narration is constantly interrupted by her captors’ increasingly hostile questioning. It’s a device which worked well in the first season of True Detective (think of Rustin Cohle, sidestepping every awkward question), but here it felt overtly artificial and intrusive. Happily, the storytelling switches to a straightforward, linear style for the rest of the book, which flowed more naturally.
During The Ice Star, you learn not only the intricacies of managing a team of working dogs, but much about the rising political tension which affects Greenland’s status in the world. As the glaciers retreat and frozen oceans open, so the country’s territorial rights become increasingly important, and author Petersen neatly stitches this underlying conflict into his tale. The indigenous people have for many years been administered by Denmark – but other, global players are gazing at Greenland with greedy eyes. What if the population used self-determination to break away from historical connections, and build stronger ties with another continent entirely?
In fact, I probably enjoyed all the background geopolitics and nitty-gritty survival stuff more than I did the main plot – which I didn’t quite buy in to. It all went a bit James Bond for my tastes, with a super-villain luxing it up on a super-exclusive cruise ship; evil henchmen popping up at inconvenient moments to be pointlessly cruel for no particular reason, and an ambiguous femme fatale complete with gownless evening strap.
I didn’t make much of a connection with Fenna, nor did she seem a particularly promising character to build a series around. So I found The Ice Star to be intriguing in parts; overall enjoyable, but perhaps not enough to lure me back again.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Ice Star by Christoffer Petersen is available as an ebook or paperback