Book Review: Cold, Cold Heart by Christine Poulson

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Updated December 06, 2017
Book Review: Cold, Cold Heart by Christine Poulson

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Midwinter in Antarctica. Six months of darkness are about to begin. Scientist Katie Flanagan has an undeserved reputation as a trouble-maker and her career has foundered. When an accident creates an opening on a remote Antarctic research base she seizes it, flying in on the last plane before the subzero temperatures make it impossible to leave. Meanwhile patent lawyer Daniel Marchmont has been asked to undertake due diligence on a breakthrough cancer cure. But the key scientist is strangely elusive and Daniel uncovers a dark secret that leads to Antarctica. Out on the ice a storm is gathering. As the crew lock down the station they discover a body and realise that they are trapped with a killer. . .

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Cold, Cold Heart by Christine Poulson
Overall rating 
It's about time that we reviewed some Christian Fiction, so when the email came through from Lion Hudson for this book I jumped at the chance to read it and review it. The book starts by introducing us to two characters, both are scientific researchers - one is nestling in for a few weeks in a remote cottage in Norfolk, just her work and her cat, and the other is preparing for a long stay at a scientific research base in Antarctica where it will be night for 6 months. The scientist in Norfolk suddenly disappears, but no-one realises for a few weeks. In the meantime the other, Katie, has headed off into the long night. At the research station everyone is getting ready for the long winter and when the last short day of the year passes one of the base staff goes missing. It is presumed that for some reason she had left the isolated station, possibly lost her bearings and got lost in the ice where the extreme temperatures would have killed her quickly. That is until a change in the weather and a frozen hand is seen sticking up through the top layer of ice. The discovery is made that she has been murdered.

With no-one able to leave the base, everyone becomes a suspect. Back in England, the body has been discovered of the other woman, Flora, an upwardly mobile researcher into developing something to fight cancer who had recently published some work and was beginning to attract investors. Could both murders be linked despite the very different circumstances?

This is a brilliantly written book from Christine Poulson, the premise of being trapped on some kind of inaccessible base with something or someone bad is not exactly an original idea, in fact the author herself refers to the station scientists having an initiation movie night of watching both movie versions of "The Thing". So this part of it is not new, but to have the murder linked to something else out of the base is an intriguing idea - that one of the team might only be there to commit cold-blooded, premeditated murder is an interesting idea. Of course they have to fit in, they have to be trusted by other people in the base in order to do what they came to do. This disguises their motive and also if someone discovers what has happened makes it hard to believe that one of their 'friends' might have done this evil thing.

Christine does a great job of settling us in through the eyes of Katie. As a character she is believable, but also gives us the link to home as the two cases start to become intwined. As a character she is very believable and goes on a journey from a bit of a pariah in the scientific community and ends up in a role that she never expected - all she wanted was to do some legitimate scientific research. We discover with her the station, the isolation and the despair, which works very well as the author establishes the stations character. Back in Norfolk we have the interesting dawning of understanding that Flora has disappeared which is told us through the eyes and experiences of her cat, Marmaduke, as he has to fend for himself for a few weeks.

This is a well written book that is a very enjoyable read. You know that something is going to happen out on the base, but you don't quite know when. From the very beginning I was interested to know what would actually link Flora going missing and whatever was going to happen in Antarctica. When things do happen they come quickly and the plot gathers a lot of pace quickly.

The plot jumps between the base and Katie's friends in the UK who have professionally ended up involved in trying to work out what has happened to Flora works well to help tie together the plot. There is a sub-plot for these friends, they have a little girl with an ongoing illness and they are struggling with a whole issue of having another child, whether they should have IVF so that they can choose an embryo that would be a donor match to help their little girl. This is where the ethical and 'Christian' aspect of the book comes in. Early on it is mentioned that Katie doesn't have the faith of her friend Rachel, and it is Rachel who is against choosing an embryo based on compatibility. This all works to bring elements of faith through into areas of the story, but they feel nice and natural and not at all heavy handed. This allows the book to be taken seriously by people who love this kind of crime-thriller.

I have to say I really enjoyed the book, the build-up to the mystery and the mystery itself. The writing is clear and left you in no doubt that the author had done her research about life in the Antarctic winter that goes beyond watching the aforementioned horror films. There is also some great specialist medical knowledge which comes to light through one sequence of the book, which again there must have been a good amount of research to get everything feel so real. That is probably the biggest compliment, it feels real - well most of it at least. Probably the very ending is the bit that will divide the readers, but I will of course leave you to discover that for yourself. For me, I worked out the killer a fair bit before the revelation, possibly a little bit too much was given away, but I didn't work out the motive until a while later, so the author continued to keep me guessing for a while.

If you are looking for a bit of a crime thriller with a twist then this is definitely worth picking up, just don't read it on a cold winters day when you are snowed in, because you might end up looking over your shoulder!

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