Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oh Baby, It's Cold Inside (These Thrillers) Post by @mrneil98

Yes, I know it’s summer and it’s supposed to be hot but these last two weeks have been extreme. Several days in triple digits, topping out at 106 in Newark, NJ last Friday. One of the greatest challenges was rotating the ice cube trays properly so there would always be some available. During this time I finished reading Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston, a non-fiction about a serial killer terrorizing the Tuscany section of Italy. Fascinating story and reflects on the current Amanda Knox case, particularly in the handling of the investigation but that is a blog for another day. Looking for a new novel I perused my bookcase and was immediately drawn to titles like The Ice Limit, Ice Hunt and Iceberg. I began reflecting on thrillers I have read with a frigid setting and a “chilling” title.

After eliminating dozens of “Ice” titles (whether Black, Blue, Crimson or with Fire) due to the use of ice as slang for diamonds, I whittled the voluminous  pile to my top four with an honorable mention from the same author. While I tried to achieve the initial cooling off from the title, the setting of the novel is far more important to plummeting the temperature of our psyche. So here they are in David Letterman-esque countdown form:

4.            Iceberg by thrill master Clive Cussler. An early Dirk Pitt (when I devoured them) where a Viking ship is found incased in, well, you can guess. Although a little dated technologically, Cussler is an excellent storyteller who influenced many of the current generation of writers. Every time I read a Rollins novel with Gray Pierce and Monk Kokkalis interacting, it reminds me of Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino.  Honorable Mention: Artic Drift also by Cussler, co-written by his son Dirk. The later Dirk Pitt adventures also have his twin adult children that magically appeared around the fifteenth book of the series. This book centers around mysteries involving the Northwest Passage.

3.            The Shining by Stephen King. Although the title does not immediately give you that arctic blast, the setting is a snow-bound Colorado hotel in the dead of winter. King masterfully uses the weather as a tool to further isolate Jack Torrance. The book is amazing but the movie is a huge disappointment (as with most film versions of novels). Where the written word leads to tension and suspense, the film caused unintended laughter.  Honorable Mention: Misery by King. Again, the snow-bound setting, although this time back home in Maine. One of the few books that translated just as well to the screen thanks to an amazing performance by Kathy Bates.

2.            Ice Hunt by James Rollins. This pre-Sigma chiller features the abandoned Soviet Ice Station Grendel, which may not be completely empty. The ice station is located on an island of ice. This novel introduces the character of seaman Joe Kowalski, now a member of Sigma and an excellent source of humor to relieve the tension of the moment. Rollins spun him off with a 2005 short story “Kowalski in Love” then he became “the muscle” for Sigma and now, as of The Devil Colony, a full member.  Honorable Mention: Doomsday Key by Rollins. Although not entirely set in the frigid climate, a good portion takes place in Norway and in particular the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Besides, I must include any book where the heroes are rescued from certain death by a rampaging herd of polar bears.

1.            The Ice Limit by Doug Preston and Lincoln Child. A billionaire is after a meteor that he believes is on an island between South America and Antarctica. An earlier novel that introduced the intriguing engineering genius Eli Glinn, who returned in several Pendergast books and now is the mission provider of the Gideon Crew series.  Honorable Mention: Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child. A solo venture about the discovery and thawing of new species of prehistoric cat, the book is simultaneously a thrilling creature feature and a satire of current television entertainment. It works wonderfully on both levels.

There are so many more cool books to chill with during the dog days of summer but I recommend losing yourself in the wintry terror of one of these featured titles.

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