“ ‘Fred Phillips is running.’ Ann Cattrell’s remark burst upon the silence of that August afternoon like a fart at a vicar’s tea-party.” After these fabulous first lines you’re drawn in completely. We perceive intrigue, mystery, shocking events and humorous sentences without dodging any subject or ironic remark. And all that combined in the beautiful surroundings of country estate Streech Grange – a manor house mystery, what more could a lifelong Agatha Christie fan want?
Gardener Fred Phillips is not one to exercise, so what made him run? Apparently, he found a decomposed body in the ice house – once a place to store all sorts of drink to keep cool. Nowadays it is overgrown and hardly recognisable, so it is an unpleasant surprise that someone’s remains are lying there. Most people would be utterly shocked by this message, but Phoebe, Diana and Ann, the three residents of Streech Grange react quite differently.
Would you believe it the first any of the three said was: “Would you like some tea? A cake perhaps?” Are these three ladies really that cold-blooded or is there something else? Ten years ago Phoebe’s husband David went missing and has never turned up again. The police assumed David was murdered by his own wife, but found neither proof nor body. Since then Ann and Diana have moved in with Phoebe and they live secluded lives, considered to be three witches, lesbians, the outcast of the town.
Now there is a dead body in the ice house, a place the police never looked ten years ago. Is it – could it be David? Is this where Phoebe has hidden him all those years? Chief Inspector Walsh is positive and thrilled at the idea to finally be able to put Phoebe behind bars. His second in command, Sergeant McLoughlin has never set foot in Streech Grange. He struggles with personal problems himself and is unable to hide the fact that his lunches are liquid and that he utterly despises and loathes the three women living in the mansion.
Much to Ann, Diana and Phoebe’s dismay again the Streech Grange mansion is overflowing with the police, who are searching everywhere indoors and outside to find that desperately needed evidence that links Phoebe to David’s murder. The heavily decayed body is almost beyond identification with no finger prints to take and no dental records to match. Although formally the police go through their missing persons list, there is little doubt in their mind that this is David Maybury’s body, hidden in the ice house for 10 years.
This captivating story consists of lost tramps, disappeared crooks and a grieving widow going crazy. There is animosity and agony as the police are desperate to find the weak spots in the alibis of the tough and cunning ladies. Every once in a while a remark hits home and emotions fly high – but will the police succeed? Will they find the culprit and convict at least one of the three, Phoebe, Ann and Diana, for murder? Speaking of murder – Sergeant McLoughlin feels quite capable of strangling Ann, who continuously attacks his conservative opinions with her loose morals. His wife left him for his best friend and McLoughlin feels enduring these sexual innuendos is the last straw, he just cannot take it anymore.
Along the way the reader gets insights into the past of Phoebe, Diana and Ann and comes to realize what happened all those years ago. Just as you think you know there are plot twists and yet another storyline that could change everything or turn out to be a dead-end. As the story continues and the plot thickens, to me as a reader the whodunit didn’t seem to matter much. All I wanted was to read more about these fascinating women, in no way ‘damsels in distress’ but strong-willed women, loyal to those they love, perfectly able to control their own lives.
Minette Walters is not afraid to be outspoken and uses refreshingly blunt language, combined with humour and excellent character descriptions, a touch of romance as well as a complex plot and superb mystery. That is why I simply love her books, this novel being one of my favourites – an enjoyable, entertaining and thrilling read.
British author Minette Walters worked as an editor and writer for magazines before dedicating herself to the art of writing a novel. Now she’s being published in more than 35 countries worldwide. Among the many descriptions of Minette Walters this one I couldn’t resist “passionate and caring, open-minded, wickedly funny”. ‘The Ice House’ is Minette Walters’ 1992 crime debut novel and winner of that years’ Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey Award for best first novel. Since then she’s written 14 more thrilling novels – click here to learn more.
“I believe you should write what you enjoy reading. If you attempt to write something you don’t like, you’ll go mad!” – Quote Minette Walters
|Publisher||Pan (1 Mar. 2012)|