Under The Ice by Rachael Blok

I bought Under The Ice, a psychological thriller by Rachael Blok, to read over the Christmas period. I wanted a page-turner that wouldn't require any effort to get into, and which would be wintry and atmospheric.

Image result for under the ice bookSet in St Albans (a cathedral city in Hertfordshire, in case you don't know it) the plot centres on the murder of a young teenage girl at a lake a couple of weeks before Christmas. Jenny, struggling with post-natal depression and sleep deprivation after the birth of her first baby, lives with her husband Will in a house nearby and immediately feels a strong, disturbing connection to the case that she can't understand. Plagued by voices and sensations of drowning and repeatedly drawn to the lake, Jenny is frightened and confused, and it's up to DCI Maarten Jansen, heading up his final investigation in England before he returns to his native Rotterdam, to peel back the layers of the mystery and find out what Jenny really knows about the murder of Leigh Hoarde. Jansen's presence, the angsty heroine and the snowy lakeside setting give the whole thing the feel of a subtitled European TV crime series, so if they're your kind of thing you may well enjoy this book. 

Regardless of this, Under The Ice is certainly a darkly atmospheric winter read if you're looking for a seasonal crime novel (I'm not sure I can imagine reading it in summer). Rachael Blok has a gift for description and you'll almost feel the biting December chill as you turn the pages. Jenny's anxiety and exhaustion as a new mother are also convincingly rendered. However, the psychological disturbances she suffers in relation to Leigh's murder do become somewhat repetitive - they're appropriately creepy and haunting, but there's only so many ways they can be put into words and they do occur frequently.

I have some other minor complaints, which are that there are some characters who seem underused (journalist Matt, who reports on the murder case, for instance) and I'd have liked to find out far more about the killer and their motives, which are sketched out with infuriating brevity and seemed a little lazily conceived.

While it's far from perfect, Under The Ice is a good, readable mystery with a tense race-against-time ending and has most of the key elements I'd look for in a strong, almost Hitchcockian psychological thriller.