The Ice House

A body has been found in the ice house on the grounds of Streech Grange, and the citizens of Streech Village are eager for that witch, Phoebe Maybury, to finally get what’s been coming to her. Phoebe’s husband disappeared ten years earlier, and despite no body being found, it’s common knowledge in the village that Phoebe murdered him. Now, finally, here’s his corpse to stand in accusation of his treacherous wife.  One problem, though: the body in the ice house has only been dead a few weeks. If it’s David Maybury, the village has been persecuting an innocent woman for ten years. Still, no need to let a little logic get in the way of a delicious vendetta; if Phoebe didn’t kill David ten years ago, she obviously has done so now, and she’s guilty of much more besides—lesbianism, witchcraft, corrupting the youth of the village. One way or another, the Witch of Streech Manor deserves what she gets.
 
Fortunately for Phoebe, Detective Sergeant Alan McLoughlin can see that the facts don’t add up the way the villagers and his Chief Inspector think they do; in fact, they don’t really make sense no matter how he tries to put them together.  But he’s determined to get to the bottom of all the mysteries presented by this one mouldering corpse and its inconvenient resting place. To do so, he will have to unravel a Gordian knot of lies being tied by everyone involved in the case, uncover numerous smaller crimes stretching back ten years, and sort out the victims from the villains.
 
What a thrilling read this was! Most mystery novels leaving you wondering who the murderer is until the final few pages; this one doesn’t even tell you who the victim is until the final reveal. Innocent parties prevaricate and act absolutely guilty of something; the guilty do a fair job appearing blameless—of murder, at least, if not of all venial sins. Everyone in the novel is seething—with rage, with fear, with lust or envy. No-one is quite entirely innocent; not the murdered man, not his accused murderess, not her accusers—and certainly not the police tasked with solving the crime.
 
It’s so rewarding to read a really good, chewy mystery novel. I’m glad Walters has a deep bibliography (14 novels, 2 novellas, and counting) and REALLY glad that Ramona has found four more of them to read and then send along to me. If Walters’ subsequent works maintain the level of suspense and readability of her debut novel, I’m sure I’ll read everything she writes.
 

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One Response to The Ice House

  1. Ramona the Reader says:

    I’m reading the first of those four right now-“The Scold’s Bridle” which is Walters’ third novel. I can already tell this is another ‘good one’.
    One of the blurbs on the back cover likens Walters’ writing to Ruth Rendell. Our library has several of her books, so I’ll have to try some to see if I like her as well as Minette.
    The library also has the new Elizabeth George, Inspector Lynley mystery for me to look forward to reading.

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