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by Scott Phillips

Ballantine Books. 217 pages. Hardcover $19.99

Now Available in Trade Paperback from Ballantine Books, October 2001, $12.00

Reviewed by Victor Gischler

Scott Phillips's fast-paced, hardboiled noir debut novel is simply fantastic. It is the account of a crooked lawyer's Christmas Eve quest to skip town with a ton of embezzled drug money and leave the country. The lawyer's name is Charlie, and Charlie leads the reader through a series of sometimes touching and often bitterly funny events. Charlie is divorced. By his own account he was a lousy husband and a crummy father, so he tries to numb his pain with booze while he kills time until his meeting with his partner in crime.

But of course things go wrong, and the big pile of money Charlie was counting on goes missing. He now has to race against the clock to find the stolen loot in time to catch his plane and skip town.

THE ICE HARVEST's success depends on Phillips's expert handling of tone and character, for the plot itself is deceivingly simple. The novel is everything a hardboiled novel should be. It is raw, bawdy, graphic, and violent. The women are sexy and sleazy. The men are dirty double-crossers. The prose is tough and clear, and the dialogue is perfect.

The novel is simply flawless, and any one who thinks differently just doesn't know how to read. Scott Phillips gets rookie crime writer of the year.

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