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by Sarah Andrews
St Martin's Minotaur, August 2007
352 pages
ISBN: 0312342535

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Valena Walker, an applicant for a master's degree in geology, is accepted by Dr Emmett Vanderzee at the last minute to accompany him on a summer in Antarctica studying glaciology. Valena rearranges her schedule and gets to the southernmost continent only to find out that Dr Vanderzee has been 'deployed' and is on a plane north our of McMurdo. Apparently, the previous summer, a journalist died under mysterious circumstances while he was with Emmett and his crew at altitude studying one of the glaciers.

Valena is ordered back to New Zealand on the next plane out, but the weather in Antarctica is unstable and there is no plane leaving for a couple of days. Walker realizes that her only way to stay and finish her thesis is to clear Dr Vanderzee of the crime. For this, she has to find the real culprit. After all, Antarctica is the equivalent of a locked room . . . there are a finite number of suspects.

There are gorgeous descriptions of Antarctica. Valena first sees it from 35,000 feet up in the plane that is bringing her there. She describes what she sees as chocolate mountains surrounded by whipped cream. When she lands and is assigned quarters, she first tries to find Dr Vanderzee's office then goes to the mess hall where she meets and is accepted by some of the support staff.

The weather turns and Valena is given a reprieve. She cannot leave since no planes are taking off. She makes herself useful; after all, she was raised on a farm. So she leaves McMurdo for other parts of the continent where she visits Scott's hut and the penguin nesting grounds among others.

I am a big fan of Sarah Andrews, but this book was disappointing. It was more of a travelogue of Antarctica than a real mystery. Yes people are killed and the culprit is apprehended and all live happily ever after, but there is too much Antarctica and not enough mystery or character development. And there is too much preaching to the converted about global warming. Those of us who read Andrews already know her politics. Less politics and more story would be wonderful.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, August 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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