Out of the Ice
PublisherSimon & Schuster UK
Date Published24 April 2018
Price£ 8.99

Out of the Ice

by Ann Turner

Environmental scientist Laura Alvarado investigates an old abandoned Norwegian whaling station in the remote Antarctic and finds signs of recent activity.


Laura Alvarado, the child of academics, is still haunted by the image of her stillborn child, and takes refuge in Antarctic research. As the book opens she is working as an environmental scientist with her friend Kate at a penguin colony, but is asked by Georgia, Victoria detective and station leader, to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment of Fredelighavn whaling station at Placid Bay.
When she arrives at the Alliance research station a few miles from Fredelighavn, Laura gets a mixed reception and after a party blacks out, leading her to suspect her drink was spiked. Delays in the arrival of an engineer assigned to accompany her in her investigation of Fredelighavn mean that she is partnered with Kate. She and Kate find the local seals and penguins surprisingly hostile, suggesting recent human contact.
The buildings also show signs of use more recent than the 1950s, when the station was abandoned, and Laura catches a brief image of a woman in a mirror. Then in a dive under the ice offshore, Laura glimpses a boy behind an ice wall. The personal echoes cause Laura to wonder whether she is becoming ‘toasty’ (slightly manic) after too long out on the ice, but she becomes determined to explore the history of the station.
Her research takes her to Nantucket to talk to descendants of the family who once dominated Fredelighavn, and then to Venice to rendezvous with Georgia, who has been investigating on the basis of hints provided by Laura. Events there demand a return to Fredelighavn, where this time Laura has assistance and is better informed as to where to look, eventually exposing serious criminal activity.
If I had a problem with this book, it was to do with Laura’s sense of perspective. The women she knows (with the temporary exception of her mother) are all warm, empathetic characters who she trusts implicitly within seconds of an introduction. The men, in contrast, may be fanciable - she finds a wide range of men sexually attractive - but they are all suspect: there is not a man she meets who doesn’t have something questionable about him.
That aside, there is plenty to like here. The Antarctic, a place of such extremes, is depicted well, and the facilities provided for human habitation in such a challenging environment are always matter of interest. Fredelighavn presents all the elements of a spooky ghost town with the added mystery of a sudden evacuation, with plenty of menace counterpointed by the domestic relics of a bygone age.

Reviewed 28 April 2018 by Chris Roberts