The thriller genre is especially adept at weaving in current societal fears into compelling narrative fiction. Given that global warming and climate concerns are one of the most pressing catastrophes facing the world today, it is no surprise that thriller writers are taking notice and stepping up to the plate. With Girl in Ice, Erica Ferencik writes a Michael Crichton-esque environmental thriller that features a strong, female lead character forced to overcome her own fears in order to solve a mystery that could have ramifications for the entire planet.
Prior to receiving the email that would change her life, Valerie Chesterfield was living a comfortable – albeit sheltered – life as a linguistics teacher at a private college. Her extreme anxiety has prevented her career from reaching the same heights as her twin brother Andy, a celebrated climatologist who unfortunately committed suicide recently while stationed at a remote outpost off the coast of Greenland. But this communication from Andy’s colleague, Wyatt, who is still conducting research at that same station gives her a chance to both broaden her own horizons, as well as to confront the pain of losing her twin brother. If she can only get on that plane.
Wyatt needs Val’s help with a recent and unbelievable discovery. On a routine research outing, Wyatt unearthed a chunk of ice containing a frozen girl. Bringing the ice back to the lab for further study was a forgone conclusion, however no one would have predicted what would happen when the ice melted. Wyatt was able to revive this young girl and bring her back to life. Miraculous for sure, but when the girl begins speaking a language no one recognizes, the mystery deepens even further. Val is an expert on ancient languages, so Wyatt is hoping that she will recognize at least a few of the words this girl keep repeating. That’s the only way they are going to figure out what happened to her.
Erica Ferencik wastes no time in getting Valerie to the Greenland station. She travels with husband and wife scientists, Raj and Nora, who are planning to take samples from deep under the icy waters in this northern outpost. Talking with them begins to make her doubt what Wyatt is claiming, but the fact remains that there is a traumatized girl who needs Val’s help to communicate.
The bulk of Girl in Ice recounts Val’s efforts to link this unknown language with something that makes sense. The details and explanations of various languages and how they influence each other is fascinating in and of itself. Cautious about what breakthroughs she shares with Wyatt, Val and the girl begin to bond with the married researcher duo. The girl is unusually fascinated with the diving gear and seems to make an association between Raj and the seals that populate the arctic waters. But it is also clear that the girl’s condition is quickly deteriorating and if they are unable to get answers soon, she is likely to die.
Parts of Girl in Ice do stretch the bounds of credibility, but there is enough real science within the narrative to make those moments forgivable. The book is very much a character study of this woman and how she overcomes her own self-imposed limitations to better understand the life – and death – of her twin brother and the existence of this strange – and fascinating – young girl. Lovers of the natural world will delight in the descriptions the environment as well as the encounters with the plethora of interesting animals that reside there – among them the narwhal, arctic fox, polar bear, and caribou.
Whether the ultimate resolution is satisfying for readers will depend on their ability to suspend disbelief and buy into the full premise that Erica Ferencik is presenting. Either way, Girl in Ice will leave readers thinking about environmental issues and the impact man has had on the natural world. There are no doubt wonders still to be discovered and Erica Ferencik is more than happy to put forth a proposal, for the sake of entertainment and scientific curiosity.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.