THE ICE HOUSE
By Minette Walters

St. Martin's Paperbacks
September 1993, $5.99 ISBN: 0-312-95142-6

Reviewed by Cherie Jung (3/98)

This is another book I failed to read when everyone else was reading and raving about it. I picked up a copy (fifth printing) last year after reading THE SCULPTRESS by the same author. You may remember that I was intrigued by the book (THE SCULPTRESS) after watching the PBS Mystery! version on television.

This month, our local PBS station is airing the video version of THE ICE HOUSE in two, one and a half hour episodes.

According to the book jacket, this is the first novel published by Ms. Walters. It won the John Creasey Award (Britain) for Best First Crime Novel. The setting is an elegant country home where three women live in seclusion. As you might suspect, the villagers have their own ideas about who and what these women are. Rumors of witchcraft and lesbianism are tossed into the mix by most of the locals. Tens years previously, Phoebe Maybury's husband disappeared. The police suspected her of foul play at the time. The Detective Inspector in charge of the investigation also hinted that Mrs. Maybury was responsible for her parents' death as well. The case was never closed because, even though the police dug up most of the estate, they could never find a body. They couldn't prove that Maybury hadn't just walked out the door and not come home again, as his wife claimed. Now a body has been discovered in the ice house on the estate where Maybury and her two female companions reside. The police are back to investigate...

I was fascinated by the character development and most of the twists and turns taken in this book. A few of the plot points were evident to me before I would have liked, but then, there are only so many variations of a theme. In the long run, I was not disappointed in the story. In fact, as soon as I finished reading the book, I immediately set about reading it again. I thoroughly enjoy Ms. Walters' writing style and story-telling abilities.

One small quibble that may put some folks off is the touch of romance that creeps into Ms. Walters' tales. (At least there was a hint of romance in both THE ICE HOUSE and in THE SCULPTRESS.) I've heard complaints from fellow readers that too much romance is appearing in present day mysteries, making them more romantic suspense than pure mystery. Well, I for one, like romantic suspense but neither of these books qualifies in that category. I did not find Detective Sergeant McLoughlin's romantic intentions out of place or unwanted in this book. (Nor did I object to the romantic angle between Roz and former Detective Sergeant Hawksley in THE SCULPTRESS but then, I saw them both in the TV versions before I began reading the books so my idea of the characters is what I saw. I liked the casting of Daniel Craig as Sgt. McLoughlin, with his thick Scottish accent in THE ICE HOUSE and Christopher Fulford as Hal Hawksley in THE SCULPTRESS.)

I heartily recommend reading all of Minette Walters' books. Do yourself a favor and pick up copies of all three while you're at the bookstore. The two I've read so far were both "page-turners." Now I'm off to read, THE SCOLD'S BRIDLE.

Other books by this author: THE SCOLD'S BRIDLE and THE SCULPTRESS.


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