Humphrey Hawksley

Man on Ice

""...while reading the book, I could almost feel the biting cold... " "


This action thriller takes place during winter in the Diomede Islands in the Bering Sea, and in Washington DC. Little Diomede is in the USA, while Big Diomede is in Russia, with only 2.4 miles separating them.

A pregnant 15 year-old girl needs urgent medical attention, which is unavailable in Little Diomede. The Russians agree to take her to their hospital on Big Diomede by one of their helicopters. This is overseen by Dr Carrie Walker and her fiancé, Rake Ozenna, a native of Little Diomede and a soldier with the Eskimo Scouts. However, it soon turns out that this is a whole lot more that a humanitarian gesture - it is the start of an invasion of Little Diomede by Russia, which wants to claim the island as its own.

Meanwhile, in Washington, newly-elected Bob Holland is two days away from taking over from outgoing US president, Christopher Swain. High-powered crisis meetings are held which involves the British ambassador, Stephanie Lucas to decide on the appropriate action to take. Swain is a pragmatist and wants to hold fire, while Holland is gung-ho, and wants to bomb Russia. But the main question is: has this invasion been hatched in Moscow, or is it the work of a lone, ambitious, renegade Russian commander called Vitruk.

On Little Diomede, Ozenna has only two days to use all his military skills and tactics to avoid nuclear war.

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Calling a thriller 'tense' and 'action-packed' may seem like another airing for three clichéd words, but in this case they are justified. Tensions between Russia and America move from the usual European front to the Bering Sea, where the two countries are no more than two miles and a half miles apart. This is not a crime book. It is a good, old-fashioned thriller with an intriguing plot, well-drawn characters and ice-covered landscapes that test to breaking point the mettle of the protagonists. In fact, while reading the book, I could almost feel the biting cold, the driven snow and the labouring of the ice-covered helicopters. There is blood and guts aplenty, and Rake takes no prisoners as he carves his way onto Big Diomede. The dialogue in some places seemed strained however, but this can be forgiven when the action is relentless and time and the odds seem stacked against him. Double-dealing also plays its part in the plot, and a good many of the Americans and the Russians are not portrayed in a flattering manner. Whether the international plotting and posturing is as shown in the book is immaterial - this is fiction, and it adds to the book's appeal.

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