Rachael Blok

Under the Ice

"...I swear frost was forming on my fingers as I held this book to the end. "


It is the week before Christmas and the cathedral city of St Albans is blanketed by snow. But beneath the festive lights, darkness is stirring. The frozen body of a young girl is discovered by the ice-covered lake.

The police scramble for clues. A local woman, Jenny, has had visions of what happened the night of the murder. But Jenny is an exhausted new mother, whose midnight wanderings pull her ever closer to the lake. Can Jenny be trusted? What does she really know?

Then another girl goes missing, and the community unravels. Neighbour turns against neighbour, and Jenny has no idea who to believe. As Christmas Eve approaches, Jenny discovers a secret about her past – and why she could be key to everything...

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'Under the Ice' is a creepy Christmas tale full of murder and the supernatural. Blok wonderfully invokes the dense darkness of winter contrasted against the glow and purity of the constant falling virginal white snow. In this winter wonderland, evil stalks the idyllic landscape. Jenny is tired, very tired. Even in exhaustion, her body doesn’t seem to be able to calm itself as she seems to be sleepwalking at night. There are the voices she can hear and why does she seem to be able to find clues the police have missed? Is she part of the case? Are the voices supernatural, or are they part of her exhaustion? Blok creates this opaque view of Jenny, so you cannot entirely make out who she really is. Is Jenny simply a mother who has stumbled in to this case of the murdered girl, or is there more to her involvement? Blok keeps her reader guessing right until the very end, but even then, not everything can be fully explained. For me, the best character here is Maarten Jansen, the detective heading this case. I loved the way he is fully rounded with his family and his own insecurities. There is also much of his past that hasn’t been explained which I hope will surface in subsequent novels. Blok’s writing is very persuasive and entices you to read on, the short sharp chapters towards the end adding to the momentum and the race to find the killer. ‘Under the Ice’ is a very exciting debut, with a great sense of place. Both Jenny and Maarten’s emotions and confusion bring the characters alive. I was spellbound by this chilling read and I swear frost was forming on my fingers as I held this book to the end. A truly remarkable debut and one that will have you reaching for the blanket as you read on your sofa!

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