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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 26, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice . . . she is not the only one.
When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park’s pond, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation. The victim appeared to have the perfect life — what dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?
When Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes. All were found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London. As she inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in. With her failing career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?
Lee Kinney emerged from the small end-terrace house where he still lived with his mother, and stared up the high street at the blanket of white. He pulled a packet of cigarettes from his trackies, and lit up. It had snowed all weekend, and was still falling, purifying the churn of footprints and tyre tracks already on the ground. Forest Hill train station was silent at the foot of the hill; the Monday morning commuters who usually surged past him, bound for offices in Central London, were probably still tucked up in the warm, enjoying an unexpected morning in bed with their other halves.
Lee had been unemployed since leaving school six years ago, but the good old days of languishing on the dole were over. The new Tory government was cracking down on the long-term unemployed, and Lee now had to work full-time for his dole. He'd been given a fairly cushy work placement as a council gardener at the Horniman Museum, just a ten-minute walk from his house. He'd wanted to stop home this morning like everyone else, but he'd heard nothing from Jobcentre Plus to say that work was cancelled. In the blazing row that had followed, his mother had said if he didn't show up, his dole would be stopped, and he'd have to find somewhere else to live.
There was a bang on the front window and his mother's pinched face appeared, shooing him away. He gave her the finger and set off up the hill.
Four pretty teenage girls were coming towards him. They wore the red blazers, short skirts and knee-high socks of Dulwich School for Girls. They chatted away excitedly in their plummy accents about how they'd been turned away from school, whilst simultaneously swiping at their iPhones, the signature white headphone wires swinging against blazer pockets. They crowded the pavement en masse, and didn't part when Lee reached them, so he was forced to step down off the kerb into a murky slush left by the road gritter. He felt icy water seep into his new trainers and shot them a dirty look, but they were too absorbed in their tribal gossip, screaming with laughter.
Stuck up rich bitches, he thought. As he reached the brow of the hill, the clock tower of the Horniman Museum appeared through the bare branches of the elm trees. Snow had spattered against its smooth yellow sandstone bricks, sticking like clumps of wet toilet tissue.
Lee turned right onto a residential street which ran parallel to the iron railings of the museum grounds. The road climbed sharply, the houses becoming grander. As he reached its summit, he stopped for a moment to catch his breath. Snow flew into his eyes, scratchy and cold. On a good day you could see London spread out from here, stretching away for miles down to the London Eye by the Thames, but today thick white cloud had descended, and Lee could only just make out the imposing sprawl of the Overhill housing estate on the hill opposite.
The small gate in the iron railings was locked. The wind was now blowing horizontally and Lee shivered in his trackies. A miserable old git was in charge of the gardening crew. Lee was supposed to wait for him to show up and let him in, but the street was empty. He looked around to make certain, and then scaled the small gate into the museum grounds, taking a thin pathway between tall evergreen hedges.
Sheltered from the shrieking wind, the world around him fell eerily silent. The snow was deepening fast, refilling his crunching footprints as he made his way through the hedgerows. The Horniman Museum and its grounds covered seventeen acres, and the sheds for gardening and maintenance were set right at the back, against a high wall with a curved top. Everywhere was a dazzling blur of white, and Lee lost his bearings, emerging deeper than he had expected in the gardens, beside the Orangery. The ornate wrought-iron-and-glass building took him by surprise. He doubled back, but after a few minutes was again in unfamiliar territory, finding himself at a fork in the path.
How many times have I walked through these bloody gardens? he thought. He took the path to the right, leading into a sunken garden. White marble cherubs posed on snowy brick plinths. The wind gave a low howl as it blew among them, and as Lee passed, it felt as if the blank, milky little eyes of the cherubs were watching him. He stopped and held his hand up to his face against the onslaught of snow, trying to work out the quickest way to the Visitors' Centre. The garden maintenance crew weren't usually allowed in the museum, but it was freezing, and the café could be open, and screw it, he would warm up like any other normal human being.
His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he pulled it out. It was a text message from the Jobcentre Plus, saying that 'due to adverse weather he would not be required to attend his work placement'. He stuffed it back in his pocket. The cherubs all seemed to have their heads turned towards him. Were they facing him before? He imagined their pearly little heads slowly moving, tracking his progress through the garden. He shook away the thought and hurried past the blank eyes, concentrating on the snow-covered ground, and emerged into the quiet of a clearing around a disused boating lake.
He stopped and squinted through the whirling flakes. A faded blue rowing boat sat in the centre of a pristine oval of snow that had settled on the frozen lake. At the opposite end of the lake was a tiny decaying boat shed, and Lee could just make out the cover of an old rowing boat under its eaves.
Snow was seeping into his already-wet trainers, and despite his jacket, the cold was spreading around his ribs. He was ashamed to realise that he actually felt scared. He needed to find his way out of here. If he doubled back through the sunken garden, he could find the path around the perimeter and emerge onto London Road. The petrol garage would be open and he could buy more fags and some chocolate.
He was about to turn back, when a noise broke the silence. It was tinny and distorted, coming from the direction of the boat shed.
'Hey! Who's there?' he shouted, his voice emerging high-pitched and panicky. It was only when the noise ceased, and seconds later, began to repeat, that Lee realised it was the ringtone from a mobile phone, and could be coming from one of his co-workers.
Because of the snow he couldn't tell where the path ended and the water began, so, sticking close to the band of trees that lined the edge of the boating lake, Lee carefully made his way round towards the sound of the ringtone. It was a desperately light tune, and as he drew nearer he could hear that it was coming from the boat shed.
He reached the low roof, and, ducking down, saw a glow illuminating the gloom from behind the tiny boat. The ringtone stopped, and seconds later the light went out. Lee was relieved it was just a phone. Druggies and dossers regularly scaled the walls at night, and the gardening crew was always finding empty wallets – dumped after the cash and cards were removed – used condoms, and needles. The phone had probably been dumped . . . But why dump a phone . . . Surely you'd only dump a really crappy phone? thought Lee.
He circled the little boathouse. The posts of a tiny jetty poked through the snow, and the jetty continued under the low roof of the boat shed. Where the snow couldn't reach, Lee could see that the wood was rotten. He eased along the jetty, ducking down under the eaves of the low roof. The wood above his head was rotten and splintered, and cobwebs hung in wisps. He was now beside the rowing boat, and could see that on the other side of the shed, lying on a little wooden ledge, was an iPhone.
Excitement rose in his chest. He could sell an iPhone down the pub, no probs. He gave the rowing boat a shove with his foot, but it didn't budge; the water was frozen solid around it. He passed its bow, stopping at the opposite end of the jetty. Crouching on his knees, he leaned over, and using the sleeve of his coat he cleared away a powdery layer of snow, exposing thick ice. The water underneath was very clear, and down in the depths he could just make out two fish, mottled with red and black, swimming lazily. A string of tiny bubbles rose up from them, reached the underside of the ice, and rolled away in opposite directions.
The phone started to ring again and he jumped, almost slipping off the end of the jetty. The cheesy ringtone bounced around inside the roof. He could see the illuminated iPhone clearly now against the opposite wall of the boat shed, lying on its side on a lip of wood just above the frozen waterline. It had a sparkly jewelled case. Lee went to the rowing boat and swung a leg over. He placed his foot on the wooden seat and tested his weight, still keeping the other foot on the jetty. The boat didn't budge.
He swung his other leg over, climbing into the boat, but even from here the iPhone was still out of his reach. Spurred on by the thought of folded bank notes, thick in the pocket of his trackies, Lee hooked his leg over the opposite side of the boat and tentatively placed his foot on the ice. Holding on to the edge of the boat, he pressed down, risking a wet foot. The ice held strong. He stepped out of the boat and placed his other foot on the ice, listening for the telltale squeaking sound of tension and weakness. Nothing. He took a small step, and then another. It was like walking on a concrete floor.
The eaves of the wooden roof slanted down. To reach the iPhone, Lee was going to have to get down on his haunches.
As he squatted down, the light from its screen illuminated the inside of the boat shed. Lee noticed a couple of old plastic bottles and bits of rubbish poking up through the ice, then something which made him stop . . . it looked like the tip of a finger.
His heart racing, he reached out and gently squeezed it. It was cold and rubbery. Frost clung to the fingernail, which was painted a deep purple. He pulled the sleeve of his coat over his hand and rubbed at the ice around it. The light from the iPhone cast the frozen surface in a murky green, and underneath he saw a hand, reaching up to where the finger poked through the ice. What must have been an arm vanished away into the depths.
The phone stopped ringing, and was replaced by a deafening silence. And then he saw it. Directly underneath where he crouched was the face of a girl. Her milky brown swollen eyes stared at him, blankly. A clump of dark hair was fused to the ice in a tangle. A fish swam lazily past, its tail brushing against the girl's lips, which were parted as if she were about to speak.
Lee recoiled with a yell and leapt up, his head crashing against the low roof of the boathouse. He bounced off and landed back on the ice, legs sliding away under him.
He lay for a moment, stunned. Then he heard a faint squeaking, cracking sound. Panicking, he kicked and scrabbled, trying to get up, to get as far away from the dead girl as he could, but his legs slid away under him again. This time, he plunged through the ice into the freezing water. He felt the girl's limp arms tangling with his, her cold slimy skin against his. The more he fought, the more their limbs became intertwined. The cold was sharp, absolute. He swallowed foul water and kicked and flailed. He somehow managed to heave himself away to the edge of the rowing boat. He heaved and retched, wishing that he'd reached that phone, but his thoughts of selling it were gone.
All he wanted now was to call for help.
Erika Foster had been waiting for half an hour in the grubby reception area of Lewisham Row Police Station. She shifted uncomfortably on a green plastic chair, one of a row bolted to the floor. The seats were faded and shiny, polished by years of anxious, guilty arses. Through a large window overlooking the car park, the ring road, a grey office tower, and the sprawling shopping centre fought a battle for visibility in the blizzard. A trail of melted slush ran diagonally from the main entrance to the front desk where the desk sergeant sat, regarding his computer with bleary eyes. He had a large jowly face and was absently picking at his teeth, pulling out a finger to inspect the findings before popping it back in his mouth.
'Guvnor shouldn't be long,' he said.
His eyes moved down Erika's body, taking in her thin frame, clad in faded blue jeans, woollen jumper, and a purple bomber jacket. His gaze came to rest on the small suitcase on wheels at her feet. She glared back at him, and they both looked away. The wall beside her was a mess of public information posters. don't be a victim of crime! declared one, which Erika thought was a pretty stupid thing to put up in the reception area of an outer London nick.
A door beside the front desk buzzed and Chief Superintendent Marsh came into the reception area. His close-cropped hair had greyed in the years since Erika had last seen him, but despite his exhausted face, he was still handsome. Erika got up and shook his hand.
'DCI Foster, sorry to keep you. Was your flight okay?' he said, taking in what she was wearing.
'Delayed, sir . . . Hence the civvies,' she replied apologetically.
'This bloody snow couldn't come at a worse time,' said Marsh, adding: 'Desk Sergeant Woolf, this is DCI Foster; she's joining us from Manchester. I'll need you to assign her a car asap . . .'
'Yes, sir,' nodded Woolf.
'And I'll need a phone,' added Erika. 'If you could find something older, preferably with actual buttons. I hate touch screens.'
'Let's get started,' said Marsh. He swiped his ID card and the door buzzed and clicked open.
'Snotty cow,' murmured Woolf, when the door had closed behind them.
Erika followed Marsh down a long, low corridor. Phones rang, and uniformed officers and support staff streamed by in the opposite direction, their pasty January faces tense and urgent. A fantasy football league pinned up on the wall slid past, and seconds later, an identical pin board held rows of photos with the heading: killed in the line of duty. Erika closed her eyes, only opening them when she was confident she had passed. She nearly crashed into Marsh, who had stopped at a door marked INCIDENT ROOM. She could see through the half-open blinds of the glass partition that the room was full. Fear crawled up her throat. She was sweating under her thick jacket. Marsh grabbed the door handle.
'Sir, you were going to brief me before—' started Erika.
'No time,' he said. Before Erika had a chance to respond, he had opened the door and indicated she should go first.
The incident room was large and open plan, and the two-dozen officers fell silent, their expectant faces bathed in the harsh strip lighting. The glass wall partitions on either side faced onto corridors, and along one side there was a bank of printers and photocopiers. Tracks had been worn into the thin carpet tiles in front of these, and between the desks to whiteboards lining the back wall. As Marsh strode to the front, Erika quickly stowed her suitcase by a photocopier which was churning out paper. She perched on a desk.
'Morning everyone,' said Marsh. 'As we all know, twenty-three-year-old Andrea Douglas-Brown was reported missing four days ago. And what has followed has been a media shit-storm. Just after nine o'clock this morning, the body of a young girl matching Andrea's description was found at the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill. Preliminary ID is from a phone registered to Andrea, but we still need a formal ID. We've got forensics on their way now, but it's all being slowed down by the bloody snow . . .' A phone started to ring. Marsh paused. It carried on ringing. 'Come on, people, this is an incident room. Answer the bloody phone!'
An officer at the back snatched it up and started to speak quietly.
'If the ID is correct, then we're dealing with the murder of a young girl linked to a very powerful and influential family, so we need to stay far ahead on this one. The press, you name it. Arses are on the line.'
The day's newspapers lay on the desk opposite Erika. The headlines screamed out: DAUGHTER OF TOP LABOUR PEER VANISHES and ANDIE KIDNAP TERROR PLOT? The third was the most striking, with a full-page picture of Andrea under the headline: TAKEN?
'This is DCI Foster. She's joining us from the Greater Manchester Police,' finished Marsh. Erika felt all eyes in the room turn to her.
'Good morning everyone, I'm pleased to be . . .' started Erika, but an officer with greasy black hair interrupted.
'Guv, I've been on the Douglas-Brown case, as a missing person and . . .'
'And? What, DCI Sparks?' asked Marsh.
'And, my team is working like clockwork. I'm following up several leads. I'm in contact with the family . . .'
'DCI Foster has vast experience working on sensitive murder cases . . .'
'But . . .'
'Sparks, this isn't a discussion. DCI Foster will now be taking the lead on this . . . She'll be hitting the ground running, but I know you will give her your best,' said Marsh. There was an awkward silence. Sparks sat back in his chair and regarded Erika with distaste. She held his gaze and refused to look away.
Marsh went on, 'And it's mouths shut, everyone. I mean it. No media, no gossip. Okay?' The officers murmured in agreement.
'DCI Foster, my office.'
Erika stood in Marsh's top-floor office as he searched through piles of paperwork on his desk. She glanced out of the window, which afforded a more commanding view of Lewisham. Beyond the shopping centre and train station, uneven lines of red-brick terraced houses stretched towards Blackheath. Marsh's office deviated from the normal order of a Chief Superintendent. There were no model cars lined along the window sill, no family photos angled on the shelves. His desk was a mess of paperwork piled high, and a set of shelves by the window seemed to be used as an overflow, crammed with bulging case files, unopened post, old Christmas cards and curling Post-it notes covered in his small spidery handwriting. In one corner, his ceremonial uniform and hat lay draped over a chair, and on top of the crumpled trousers, his Blackberry winked red as it charged. It was a strange mix of teenage boy's bedroom and high authority.
Marsh finally located a small padded envelope, and handed it to Erika. She tore the edge off and pulled out the wallet with her badge and ID.
'So, I suddenly go from zero to hero?' she said, turning the badge over in her hand.
'This isn't about you, DCI Foster. You should be pleased,' said Marsh, moving round and sinking into his chair.
'Sir, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that when I returned to service, I'd be put on administrative tasks for six months minimum?'
Marsh indicated she should take the seat opposite.
'Foster, when I called you this was a missing person case. Now we're looking at murder. Do I need to remind you who her father is?'
'Sir Douglas-Brown. Wasn't he one of the main government contractors for the Iraq War? At the same time as serving in the cabinet?'
'This isn't about politics.'
'Since when have I cared about politics, sir?'
'Andrea Douglas-Brown went missing on my patch. Sir Douglas-Brown has exerted enormous pressure. He's a man of influence who can make and break careers. I've got a meeting with the Assistant Commissioner and someone from the bloody cabinet office later this morning . . .'
'So this is about your career?'
Marsh shot her a look. 'I need an ID on this body and a suspect. Fast.'
'Yes, sir.' Erika hesitated. 'Can I ask, why me? Is the plan to throw me in first as potential fall guy? Then Sparks gets to clean up the mess and look the hero? Cos I deserve to know if . . .'
'Andrea's mother is Slovak. And so are you . . . I thought it might help things, to have an officer her mother can identify with.'
'So it's good PR to put me on the case?'
'If you want to look at it like that. I also know what an extraordinary police officer you are. Recently you've had troubles, yes, but your achievements far outshine what has . . .'
'Don't give me the shit sandwich, sir,' said Erika.
'Foster, the one thing you've never mastered is the politics of the force. If you'd done that we might be sitting on opposite sides of this conversation right now.'
'Yeah. Well, I have principles,' said Erika, giving him a hard stare. There was silence.
'Erika . . . I brought you in because I think you deserve a break. Don't talk yourself out of the job before you've begun.'
'Yes sir,' said Erika.
'Now, get over to the crime scene. Report back to me the second you have information. If it is Andrea Douglas-Brown we'll need a formal ID from the family.'
Erika got up and went to leave. Marsh went on, his voice softer, 'I never got the chance, at the funeral, to say how sorry I was about Mark . . . He was an excellent officer, and a friend.'
'Thank you, sir.' Erika looked at the carpet. It was still difficult to hear his name. She willed herself not to cry. Marsh cleared his throat and his professional tone returned.
'I know I can rely on you to reach a swift conviction on this. I want to be kept posted every step of the way.'
'Yes, sir,' said Erika.
'And DCI Foster?'
'Lose the casual gear.'
Erika found the women's locker room and worked fast, changing into a forgotten but familiar ensemble of black trousers, white blouse, dark sweater and long leather jacket.
She was stuffing her civilian clothes into a locker when she noticed a crumpled copy of the Daily Mail at the end of one of the long wooden benches. She pulled it towards her and smoothed it out. Under the headline, DAUGHTER OF TOP LABOUR PEER VANISHES,
- "Compelling at every turn! The Girl in the Ice grabs us from the first page and simply won't let go, as we follow the brilliantly drawn Detective Erika Foster in her relentless hunt for one of the most horrific villains in modern crime fiction."—Jeffery Deaver, #1 internationally bestselling author
- "A riveting page-turner. An astonishingly good plot with perfectly drawn characters and sharp, detailed writing. The Girl in the Ice is a winner."—Robert Dugoni, #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author
- "Robert Bryndza's The Girl in the Ice has everything I look for in a mystery: an evil antagonist, a clever detective, and a plot that kept me guessing until the very end!"—T.R. Ragan, New York Times bestselling author
- "I freakin' LOVED it! . . . Once in a while a book stops you in your tracks . . . this is THAT book!"—Crime Book Junkie
- "I loved, loved, loved this book and Erika Foster is most definitely my kind of heroine. She is smart, tenacious, direct and passionate...I found the writing tight, evocative and enthralling. I CAN NOT wait for the next installment."—Angela Marsons, USA Today bestselling author
- "A non-stop, edge-of-your-seat, rollercoaster of a thriller! The ending, oh the ending! My mind is still blown! This book does not disappoint!"—The Book Addicted Boy
- "Oh my gosh!...gripping, grimy, hardcore, thrilling...I was hooked!!!...I loved this book...You Have GOT To Read This!"—A Page of Fictional Love
- "An intriguing web of lies, secrets and suspense. I really enjoyed getting to know DCI Foster and am already looking forward to the next book."—Mel Sherratt, author of Taunting the Dead
- "A compelling read--once you've started, it's hard to put down."—Rachel Abbott, author of Sleep Tight
- "Hands-down, one of the most exciting, dramatic, tense and compelling thrillers that I think I have ever read."—Bookaholic Confessions
- "Absolute perfection!...Boy are there some sharp turns! There were a few moments when I felt like I had it all figured out and I was so wrong! Fantastic book!"—The Eternal Optimist
- "The Girl In The Ice is a brilliantly clever crime thriller...Had me hurtling at full speed, until WHAM!!!! with an ending that just totally blew me away! An absolute must read for all you crime fanatics out there."—By The Letter Book Reviews
- "Engaging, thought provoking, full of suspense -- this is one murder mystery you won't want to miss."—Erisea Magazine
- "With a great plot that really digs into the depths of human nature and some fascinating characters that really were excessive shades of light and dark...The book keeps you guessing and on edge, you will think you have it ALL worked out, but the twisty reveal was very impressive, loved it."—Book Lover Cat Lady
- "I found myself racing through the chapters...it has plenty of twists and turns, with enough red herrings to keep the reader captivated to the very last page, it's addictive, compulsive and much more."—The Book Review Café
- On Sale
- Feb 26, 2019
- Page Count
- 432 pages
- Grand Central Publishing