The Ice Shroud – Gordon Ell
When a woman’s body is discovered frozen in the ice of a river near the alpine resort of Queenstown, Detective Sergeant Malcolm Buchan faces both a mystery and a moral dilemma. The identity of the nude woman is critical to the motives and manner of her murder, and Buchan is personally involved. So are a number of locals, from ski bums to multi-millionaire businessman.
Newly appointed to head CIB in the Southern Lakes district, Buchan hunts the killer through the entanglements of corruption and abuse that lie barely below the surface of the tourist towns.
The assistance of a woman traffic sergeant is critical to the hunt but she brings her own dilemmas. The community is practised at keeping its secrets, and finding the truth comes at a price
The Ice Shroud has been named on the Best First Novel shortlist for the first ever Ngaio Marsh Awards. I have been invited to join the blog tour for the Awards and I was thrilled to have the chance to read Gordon Ell’s debut novel. My heartfelt thanks to Craig Sisterson for inviting me to join this international blog tour.
Wikipedia tells me that Dunedin is the second largest city in the South Island of New Zealand – its name comes from the old Gaelic name for Edinburgh (capital city of Scotland) MY capital city. I knew the origins of the name Dunedin before I read The Ice Shroud so every time Dunedin received a name check in the book I had a happy smile – wee things like this make me absurdly happy!
What also makes me happy is when I have the chance to read a cleverly written and engaging murder mystery and I found The Ice Shroud to be exactly that, I found it utterly compelling. A whodunnit tale set in a small New Zealand town where the police are not prepared to investigate a mysterious death and yet they have to cobble a team together when a badly mutilated corpse is discovered.
Leading the investigation is DS Malcolm Buchan he has completed tours in Afghanistan but returned to New Zealand and now works for the police. He is assisted in his investigations by Magda Hansen – a traffic cop who just happened to be first on scene when a woman’s body was found deep in a ravine and partially submerged in an icy river.
We follow Buchan and Magda as they first meet then try to work out how they can recover the body from its incredibly inaccessible resting place. Once the corpse is finally recovered Buchan will find himself facing a personal dilemma which could have significant implications over how the investigation will proceed.
The victim lived and worked in a Southern resort region on the South Island. There is a high turnover of tourists to the town but the locals have a strong support network and will close ranks against the police who come knocking at their doors. As Buchan uncovers more details of the life that the victim lived he only uncovers more questions, how could her specialist boutique sustain such heavy losses? Why did her Bank Manager and her Accountant both offer her personal loans on a loss making business but not seek any security on her borrowing? Why does the local barman deny knowing the victim, despite her being a frequent visitor at his establishment?
Buchan will have to break down the suspicious defences of the residents, pick out the half-truths and work out why nobody is keen to admit to knowing his victim – despite all indications that they knew her well. To this end Gordon Ell has penned a wonderfully crafted small town murder mystery. With a relatively small cast of potential suspects, all confined in a small area and all seemingly knowing of each other’s interests The Ice Shroud is also a fascinating study of characters and what may drive them.
Having read a few Ngaio Marsh novels in my younger days I can remember them being cleverly crafted tales which always kept me guessing. The Ice Shroud therefore sits very well on the shortlist for a Ngaio Marsh award, the clever plotting by the author reflects the dogged determination of DS Buchan to find a killer and I could not turn the pages fast enough. Highly recommended, if you are a fan of police procedurals then The Ice Shroud is not a book to miss.
The Ice Shroud is published by Bush Press.