THE GIRL IN THE ICE by Robert Bryndza
Erika Foster Series - Book 1
Grand Central Publishing; 4/24/18
CBTB Rating: 4/5
The Verdict: a familiar-yet-addictive police procedural
One of my favorite elements of crime fiction has always been its ability to deliver “comfort reads”... which sounds a bit strange, considering the subject matter these books explore, but it’s always been true for me. There’s nothing like the familiarity and comfort that can come with reading a really great crime novel—no matter how dark the subject matter, crime fiction just always feels like exactly what I need when I’m looking to escape reality for a while (or, sometimes, when I'm looking to understand reality better). Of the many subgenres of crime fiction, one that provides some of the most reliable “comfort reads” for me is that of the police procedural. Cheering for the good guys as they track down the bad guys and pursue justice—that’s something I can always get behind.
Today’s featured title is exactly that kind of read: the crime novel that you can easily pick up and get swept up in. THE GIRL IN THE ICE by Robert Bryndza (Grand Central; 4/24/18) was simply a comfort read for me - and I mean that in the best possible way. From its compelling female lead to its breezy pacing and addictive tension, Bryndza’s police procedural struck exactly the right chord for this reader. Fans of M.J. Arlidge will find Bryndza’s work right up their alley - THE GIRL IN THE ICE has a similar tone to Arlidge’s DI Helen Grace books, which, if you know me, you’ll know I mean as a high compliment. Pick this one up for a weekend binge-read - you'll find Bryndza's world instantly-accessible, his characters compelling and endearing, and his story's central mystery wholly engrossing.
Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice...She is not the only one.
When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.
The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London.
What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?
As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.
The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong... resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she's faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?
I’m not an e-book reader myself, but no matter your position on them, it’s fascinating to learn the backstory behind Bryndza's Erika Foster series. THE GIRL IN THE ICE is coming to the US this April after a long stint as an e-book (and then print book) sensation abroad - it has sold over 1 million copies, and has proven wildly popular with readers around the world! This spring, Grand Central is making THE GIRL IN THE ICE available in paperback to American readers. It’s so exciting to see a book with such an organic groundswell of support find another market and a whole new set of readers to engage with - and I’m confident many CBTB readers will find this one right up their alley.
So what exactly makes THE GIRL IN THE ICE so hugely popular? There are a number of facets that make this a compelling read, but I would argue that it really boils down to one thing: THE GIRL IN THE ICE is just plain fun to devour. Bryndza’s unfussy, uncomplicated writing beautifully toes the line between accessible and simplistic—he’s managed to find that sweet spot that makes a book easy to binge-read without making it predictable or superficial. There’s so much to be said for this delicate balance, and Bryndza simply nails it. THE GIRL IN THE ICE is that rare book that can genuinely be called “compulsively readable” - I read this book in two sittings, that’s how hooked I was. Though Bryndza’s chapters are longer than those of M.J. Arlidge, readers will find THE GIRL IN THE ICE takes a similar tone to Arlidge’s Helen Grace books, from its tough-as-nails female lead to its driving plotting.
A comparison can also be drawn between Bryndza and Arlidge in the depth to which they take their stories. Both THE GIRL IN THE ICE and the Helen Grace books touch on disturbing subjects, but they never dig into these topics with quite the same intensity or darkness that other crime novels do - and I don't mean this as a negative in the least. When I'm talking about psychological thrillers, I call these lighter suspense stories "popcorn reads"; in the case of these slightly lighter police procedurals, let's think of them like watching an episode of your favorite TV crime drama. (Perhaps an episode of Law & Order, in this case!) There is such an audience for crime books of this style: those pacey, addictive cop vs. killer stories that hook you from page one, but won't scare you so much to give you nightmares. If that's the kind of read you're in the market for, THE GIRL IN THE ICE will make a great addition to your reading list.
Speaking of procedurals: Bryndza has similarly mastered the art of writing a procedural that remains to true to its genre while still reading in a fresh, modern way. A police procedural is defined (quite simply) as a novel that puts emphasis on the procedures police use to solve a crime—and THE GIRL IN THE ICE most definitely falls under this category, although it does so in a way all its own. There is a police investigation at the heart of this book - readers are taken into the inner workings of Erika Foster’s investigation into the killings plaguing her city - but Bryndza never gets mired in the details of this work. Readers are given just enough information to make them well-informed; never so much information as to bog them down. It’s yet another example of the accessibility and entertainment value that Bryndza has nailed. That being said: again, if you’re in the market for a crime book that digs deep into the details of a police investigation, this might not be the right choice for you - you're likely to find its portrayal of police work too “surface level.”
Because I am, as always, all about expectations, I do want to note that THE GIRL IN THE ICE centers around a relatively familiar plot. If you’ve read widely within crime fiction, you will find the basic premise of THE GIRL IN THE ICE familiar - but don’t let that deter you. As always, I'll be totally honest: I was a bit concerned I would find THE GIRL IN THE ICE predictable; after all, I've just read so many books with a similar premise to this one. My concerns were unnecessary, though - Bryndza's plot may sound familiar, but THE GIRL IN THE ICE has personality all its own. And, at the end of the day, there really is comfort in the familiar, and Bryndza’s ability to write engaging, addictive crime fiction will feel engaging and exciting no matter how many “cop vs. killer” novels you’ve read. If you’re looking for a crime novel that pushes the envelope or delves deep into the psychology of criminals, you’d do best to look elsewhere - but if you’re in the market for a purely addictive and entertaining police procedural, THE GIRL IN THE ICE will be right up your alley.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
Series: Erika Foster series (Book 1)
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (April 24, 2018)
Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.