Linda Howard is a storyteller. And when she “hears” characters speaking to her as she told me they do in an AAR interview, she is compelled to tell their stories. Sometimes that means her characters send her down a different path than ones readers have come to expect. Such is the case with Ice.
The book is a stripped-down story with a simple plot: A man and a woman are pursued by two crystal meth addicts in the midst of a brutal Maine ice storm. The action takes place primarily over the course of a single day and it’s fair to say that I found myself almost instantly hooked by the story.
Hero Gabriel is a military policeman who arrives to visit his family for the Christmas holidays in the small Maine town where he grew up just as an ice storm is bearing down on the community. Heroine Lolly, who also hails from the town but now lives in the city, is alone at her family’s isolated home preparing to put the house up for sale. Since the town sheriff – who is also Gabriel’s dad – is worried that Lolly may not be aware of the advancing storm since he’s been unable to reach her, he sends Gabriel out to the house to check on her safety.
Unfortunately for Lolly, while in town that morning picking up supplies, she attracted the attention of two crystal meth addicts looking for someone to rob. They follow her back to her home and brutally attack and hold her hostage in an upstairs bedroom. With the ice quickly mounting up outside, Lolly knows she is in deep crap. But Lolly is a woman of strong resources and she’s soon planning a means of escape. Which, very fortunately, is just about the time Gabriel arrives. As a law enforcement professional, he’s quick to recognize signs of trouble, so he finds a ladder in the nearby barn and gets Lolly out of there.
Unfortunately, what they escape into is a world covered in ice. With their sights set on getting to Gabriel’s car parked a distance away, they are soon followed by the gun-toting druggies enraged at Lolly’s escape.
Linda Howard manages to make real people out of Gabriel and Lolly, who share a high school history that’s not your usual former lovers story. Gabriel thought Lolly was a snob and misfit Lolly thought he was a popular kid bully. Of course, they both were more messed up, hormonal high school kids than anything else, something both come to realize in the course of this story.
Did the book work for me? Yes, in the sense that I enjoyed the author’s bare bones story and I liked both Gabriel and Lolly. And, since the book definitely falls into romantic suspense territory, there’s a suitably satisfying emotional payoff to the romance. Linda Howard also does a great job of keeping her villains suitably scary – dehumanized, but scary. And, lastly, there’s the book’s third major character: The building ice storm. To put it succinctly, she made me feel the danger.
I am a fan of Linda Howard and her (not to mention her publisher’s) willingness to take the paths she wants to take. But, honestly, I wish Ballantine had treated Ice as they did the author’s Blair Mallory books by publishing it in mass market format instead of hardcover. As it is, I enjoyed this one and the few hours I spent reading it. But then again, it didn’t cost me $22.