Book Review: Out of the Ice by Ann Turner
I loved Ann Turner’s previous book, The Lost Swimmer, and was eager to read her new offering, a thriller set in the Antarctic.
When it comes to the icy setting, I won’t complain. Turner’s vivid descriptions of Antarctica and its wildlife are enthralling. Turner also utilises the unlikely location co-stars of Venice and Nantucket. Turner takes advantage of the uniqueness of these three landscapes and effortlessly creates a series of eerie atmospheres. The one thing these three places has in common is the sense of isolation, and almost being cut off from civilisation. The idea that someone might be watching, or even following, the characters when they should be fully alone, in areas where the natural surroundings offers no escape route, adds a great deal of tension. I remember saying in my Lost Swimmer review that it’s like reading a Hitchcock movie, and I get that same feeling with this new novel.
I should add that in Antarctica the setting isn’t just snow and penguins. Out of the Ice’s main character, Laura, is an Australian scientist assigned to undertake an environmental impact study to determine whether or not an abandoned whaling station could be converted into a tourist attraction. The station was previously run by one enterprising Norwegian family who set up an almost entirely self-sufficient village for their workers and their families to live. Turner gives us depressingly shameful descriptions of the whaling operations, as well as the creepy Stepford-like village.
From maybe a slower beginning than I expected, the novel skips along like wildfire once Laura arrives at the village. I skipped along with it, turning pages frantically, hoping to find out what might happen with the mystery surrounding the village, its past (and perhaps present) inhabitants, and the strange goings-on there.
This is where I admit to not guessing any of the outcomes or solving that said mystery. There was one particular twist towards the end that I never saw coming in any shape or form. I enjoyed this surprise and this aspect immensely.
However, abruptly, about three quarters through the book, Turner’s plot also became a touch too unbelievable for my liking. Without spoiling, the criminal activities depicted obviously do happen in the world, but I found them far too outlandish for me to accept in this book.
The sense of reality was reduced even further when Laura was able to travel around the world so quickly and easily to assist international authorities to crack the crime. (Can I ask about Australian Antarctic scientists’ budget after reading this book?!)
My other complaint that made me swipe a half a star off my rating was Laura’s romantic subplot. I’m sorry, it was just hopeless. The book is written from Laura’s first person POV, and I would (never!) complain about inner thoughts regarding love or lust, but it would have been nice for Turner to present me with one guy I could cheer on with hopes they might become the ‘one’. Even Laura was confused. Her inner monologue each time she met a new male character was something along the lines of how she felt instantly attracted to him. Yes, pretty much all of them! Including her exes! I couldn’t decide on which character Turner wanted Laura to become involved with, especially as Laura had no substantial chemistry with any of these men. Nor did any of them endear themselves as leading man material and in the end, I rose my eyebrow at the romantic outcome. I can honestly say I wasn’t ready for Laura (and Turner) to settle on this person at all. I pretty much hated it/him.
I do still love Turner’s pacing and writing, however, and recommend Out of the Ice.