Britt Montero, Miami's top fiction crime reporter, is back on the
scene and her beat -- crime in South Florida - is still hot, hot,
hot. However, in Edna Buchanan's latest mystery, Miami heat comes
face-to-face with chilling conditions.
When Britt goes to a jewelry store where police have found a dead
body, it seems she has an interesting story about a jinxed burglar.
But nothing in her Miami is that simple. The deceased burglar's
scarred body sparks a detective's memory, leading Britt and the
cops on a journey for truth and justice. The detective, Craig
Burch, is part of the Cold Case Squad and his mission is to solve
old crimes. Years before, as a homicide detective, he investigated
the kidnapping and murder of a teenager, Ricky Chance.
Chance didn't survive, but his date, Sunny Hartley, lived to tell
about her beating and brutal rape. Part of her survival meant
leaving the memories behind and immersing herself in her sculptures
of ice and stone, leading Britt to dub her the Ice Maiden. It's up
to Britt and the Cold Case Squad to draw her out to get closer to
During their hunt for the truth, Britt gets on the wrong side of
the cops and has to navigate newspaper politics to keep the story
alive. She continues to throw all of her energy into the story and
solving the mystery, and she takes compensatory time off to finish
In getting the job done, Buchanan paints a vivid image of Miami's
underside and the contradictions of the city. Her tales of the city
weave together Santeria, Miami's wealthy elite, Cubans, Anglos and
African Americans. Buchanan's penchant for including all of Miami's
people is one of the strengths of the series.
She also brings her realistic style to each of the twists in the
novel, making each murder and crime seem as if it's excerpted from
your morning paper. Buchanan's style and experience (she won a
Pulitzer as a Miami crime reporter) make her novels stronger than
many mystery series.
For Britt's fans, this outing, which ties up some of the loose ends
in her life, will be a bittersweet read. The usual suspects in
Britt's life appear, including Kendall McDonald, Lottie, Onnie and
the her newsroom nemesis, Gretchen. Those new to Britt's world of
deadlines, corpses and subtropical drama will find it a good,
topical novel. However it is not the best Buchanan has to offer.
She, as I imagine many contemporary authors have, refers to
September 11th and the national crisis throughout THE ICE MAIDEN.
Since it has so little bearing on the Miami crime scene, the
references are shallow and distracting. There's also a bit of a
hole left after the case is solved, and it's disappointing to catch
that in an otherwise surprising tale.
The surprise, which I won't give away, makes the hunt for the
killers worth following. As is Britt Montero, a worthy amateur
sleuth and heroine. Buchanan's shocker of an ending hints that
there are new directions in store for the character and the series.
Let's hope what follows is worth looking over the flaws in THE ICE
Reviewed by Bernadette Adams Davis on January 22, 2011