Review

Heart of Ice

by Gregg Olsen

A few years ago, Gregg Olsen made the transition from writing
true crime novels to penning thrillers with killers more
frightening than most readers could imagine. A COLD DARK PLACE
introduced Washington Sheriff Emily Kenyon. HEART OF ICE,
Olsen’s latest work, marks Kenyon’s welcome return,
ties up a couple of dangling plot lines from the previous book, and
features a murderer whose acts and life will keep you up for nights
on end.

The most riveting element of HEART OF ICE is the manner in which
Olsen takes two different story tracks and slowly draws them both
toward resolution. What makes the narration engrossing is the
difference between the two tracks. One involves a mysterious serial
killer whose identity is almost immediately revealed. Michael
Barton is an extremely competent if somewhat unconventional systems
technician, as admired for his work as he is secretly ridiculed for
his eccentricities. His wife, Olivia, and children adore him, even
as they sense that something is amiss.

There are two elements concerning Barton, however, that Olsen
slowly and excruciatingly reveals. The first concerns the fact that
Barton has a list of victims targeted for murder and is
methodically working his way through them, saving his major target,
Jenna Kenyon --- Emily’s daughter --- for last. It is a
mystery throughout most of the book as to what links the names on
Barton’s list and, most importantly, the reason for his
pursuit. The second element is Barton’s nightmarish past,
particularly his childhood, events that play a significant role in
his current nefarious activities.

The second story track of HEART OF ICE pertains to Sheriff
Kenyon’s investigation into the mysterious disappearance of
Mandy Crawford. Mandy is the wife of Mitch Crawford, the owner of a
local car dealership made famous by his father, who apparently did
not pass his gifts of personality and charisma on to Mitch. Mandy,
whose pregnancy is almost at term, has been reported missing by her
co-workers, and Mitch is relatively unconcerned, which raises both
the specter of foul play and places Mitch at the top of the list of
potential suspects.

When Mandy is found brutally murdered and Mitch is arrested,
Emily must deal with Cary McConnell, Mitch’s attorney. Emily
and Cary had a short but intense relationship some time before, and
the contact with Cary both reminds her of that fact and disgusts
her. In gathering proof of Mitch’s complicity in his
wife’s death, however, Emily uncovers another secret that
makes the case far more complicated than it was and threatens to
shatter forever the disturbed demeanor of the small, usually quiet
community she polices.

Be warned: Olsen does not pull punches with his descriptions,
and the villains of his pieces are the stuff of walking, and
waking, nightmares. Those who walk among us as serial killers did
not spring into being from whole cloth, and Olsen, whose research
on such topics is matched by few, brings a believability to his
subject that rings and resonates long after you’ve finished
reading. Conversely, he also leaves you wanting more, which he
generously provides: an excerpt from his next novel, VICTIM SIX,
follows the conclusion of HEART OF ICE.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Heart of Ice
by Gregg Olsen

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pinnacle
  • ISBN-10: 0786018313
  • ISBN-13: 9780786018314