|Date Published||04 April 2018|
The Well of Ice
When the local pub burns down, the heart seems to have been ripped out of the small Irish town of Glendara. Matters get worse when local solicitor Benedicta ‘Ben’ O’Keefe and Garda Sergeant Tom Molloy make a grim discovery on Christmas Day.
As a former property lawyer, I had every sympathy with Ben. Even after 25 years in the job I could never understand the attraction of spending Christmas surrounded by packing cases, but I can certainly attest to the truth of Ben’s job-related woes, and that’s one of the things that makes Andrea Carter’s Inishowen mysteries so well-grounded in everyday life. Ben Carter is an utterly believable character doing a job that brings her into intimate contact with a lot of people in a town that fits so perfectly into the Irish countryside that I wanted to look for it on a map so I could visit. The setting, the people and the atmosphere are all wholly authentic and that’s the great strength of the series.
In The Well of Ice, Ben flies to Dublin to complete a purchase for some clients. While she’s there, she has an unwelcome encounter with Luke Kirby, the man who killed her sister. He’s been released after serving a prison sentence, which Ben and her parents believe should have been for murder, not manslaughter. Meeting Kirby again chills Ben even more than the icy weather and she’s glad to return to the security of Glendara.
But when she gets back, she finds the town in chaos. The Oak, Glendara’s pub, has burned to the ground and barmaid Carole Kearney is missing. Ben’s boyfriend, Garda Sergeant Tom Molloy, is caught up in the investigation into possible arson, and things get worse when Ben and Molloy make a grim discovery on a Christmas walk.
The snowy weather provides the perfect backdrop for an intricate mystery that delves deep into complicated family relationships in and beyond the small Donegal town. Ben’s job means that people talk to her, talking advantage of solicitor-client confidentiality to tell her things they seem reluctant to take to Molloy in his job as a Guard. This, coupled with her relationship with Molloy, provides a believable way of getting her close to the heart of what’s going on. Her relationship with the taciturn, reserved sergeant is still under wraps, but it’s hard to keep a secret at Christmas in a small town when invitations to very get-togethers are flying around.
The story gathers pace and added layers of complexity. Ben’s past collides messily with her present and there’s bags of tension, as the story arc with Luke Kirby reaches a climax alongside a story of arson and murder. The inevitable reveal is well-handled, and I was left wanting to know where Ben and Molloy’s relationship will go from here.
Reviewed 24 November 2018 by Linda Wilson