Ice trap, by Kitty Sewell

The first chapter of ICE TRAP is a compelling account of a young boy's solo hunting trip in the snowy sub-Arctic wastes. By the chapter's end, he has been attacked by a polar bear and we don't know whether he survives.

The action then shifts to modern Wales, where surgeon Dafydd and his wife Isobel, an interior designer, are trying to conceive a child. Their comfortable lives are turned upside down by a letter out of the blue from the remote north-west Canadian community of Moose Creek. The letter is from a teenage girl, Miranda, purporting to be Dafydd's daughter. Dafydd recalls a time when as a young doctor he made a mistake while performing an operation, and in a kind of penance, spent a year or so working in this snowy outpost. He can't understand, however, why the girl thinks he is her father, as he not only did not have a relationship with her mother, the chief nurse of the local hospital, but he could not stand her.

Despite his doubts, the results of the subsequent DNA tests reveal that Miranda and her twin brother Mark are indeed his children. Dafydd decides he must return to the area to meet his children and decide how to continue his life, particularly in light of the distinctly unsympathetic reaction from Isobel. The rest of the book tells the story in flashback of Dafydd's previous experiences at Moose Creek, and what he finds there when he returns after so many years.

Although ICE TRAP is a page-turner, I found the book unsatisfying in several aspects. Dafydd, in particular, is not a sympathetic main character, being passive, weak and incurious. Indeed, it is not until very late on that I encountered anyone I liked, and this person has only a fleeting if significant role. Dafydd's earlier time at Moose Creek does not really ring true to me: Sheila, the head nurse (and Dafydd's putative co-parent) has too much control over both the running of the hospital and the doctors who work there to be realistic. Although many of the dynamics that baffled Dafydd during his first stay in the region are solved when he returns as an older, and wiser, man, the basic mystery (parenthood of the twins) is too obvious, including the twist, and the various characters he re-encounters on his return haven't engaged my sympathy enough on the first outing, for me to care very much about what has happened to them in the interim, or about their personal tragedies, when these are revealed.

I liked the final chapters, where the plot does provide some tension and the writing conveys genuine emotion. Dafydd's attempts to relate to his children and his ability, finally, to make some decisions make him more likeable. But the rest of the book, although containing some nice touches, is not as good as some of the earlier reviews in the UK national press had led me to believe it would be.

First published at Euro Crime, February 2008

About these ads
This entry was posted in Academia, Books, Canada, Crime fiction, Debut, Domestic, Eurocrime, Europe, Medical, North America, Psychology, Wales and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s