This murder-mystery is all about its setting, the full force of the turning seasons and the stalwart townsfolk of a small community. The plot is driven by a gruesome series of weird killings that mimic historic religious rituals, from the auto da fé to pagan sacrifice, but the winter chill of rural Maine dominates proceedings.
There are grisly killings described in detail and plenty of attention to detail in the police proceedings, but The Ice Maiden most vividly captures small-town life in an isolated lakeside environment. It’s saturated in the detail of daily life in a tight-knit settlement, where personal conflicts and domestic disputes are inescapable, and everyone speculates about the newcomer’s romantic inclinations…
The plots pairs a female investigator from the county sheriff’s office with her male counterpart from the major crime unit of the state police. Refreshingly, they get along just fine although it’s slowly revealed that each has good reason to be cautious about emotional entanglements. Doug Bateman has yet to come to terms with the death of his son and the impact that had on his marriage, while Anne Quinn has returned to her roots from the big city, seeking professional and personal fulfilment.
Their efforts to apprehend the sadistic killer are further hampered by the intervention of an inspired creation – a wealthy ‘murder groupie’. His twisted fascination with the killings threatens the investigation, and could prove to be even more sinister. It becomes apparent that the killer is well hidden in the local community, able to sidestep the efforts of the law enforcement officers and taunt the authorities as they struggle to find him.
There’s a core of a good story in this book but it’s buried in dense, lengthy descriptions. The narrative gets overwhelmed with incidental interludes that add little to proceedings and slow the action. There are too many detours into everyday life that don’t develop the core characters or push the plot along. The author has a good yarn to spin but his writing would benefit from considerably more ‘show’ and a lot less ‘tell’.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Ice Maiden by BD Smith is available at Amazon