Jenny Siler presents the heroine of her Meg Gardner mystery series in Iced, published by Henry Holt and Company, copyright 2000.
A year after finishing her eighteen-month prison sentence, Meg Gardner is working for “Flip”, who runs a repossession outfit in Missoula, Montana. She had served her time for fraudulent checks and causing bodily harm to her, at the time, boyfriend. Meg is sent to repossess a jeep and finds out the owner, Clay Bennett, had been murdered and his body had been found in the weeds. She figures it would be an easy job making the pickup but on the back seat of the jeep is a heavy duty aluminum briefcase with unknown contents. She tries fumbling with the locks with no luck. She learns that Clay, who had defaulted on the financing of the vehicle before his murder, was somewhat of a local hero. He was a pilot and had crash-landed a jet training aircraft in the dense woods of Montana and after an extensive search lasting several months was declared dead. Miraculously after the spring thaw, he walked out of the woods. Clay was in bad shape, half-starved, thin, in tattered clothing, yet he was alive. After getting himself resettled Clay set out on a mission to map the area where his jet plane had gone down near a small lake.
The aircraft is of little value on its own but its cargo is of great importance to some Russians. Clay’s maps may help find this downed jet plane and, now that Bennett was dead, they were desperate to take the maps he had made of the area and the crash site. They began to follow, threaten, and even beat Meg in an attempt to acquire the aluminum case which they believed holds the maps. The ultimate question was what was so valuable on Bennett’s aircraft that the Russians were willing to openly pressure Meg with such threats for. At her house, the jeep she had repossessed from Bennett was broken into, and when she went to see what the window smashing noise was the Russians pointed guns at her and demanded the maps which were already tucked away in the briefcase in her house. Until this point, Meg did not know what might be in the case, but before the situation escalates her next-door neighbor Mrs. Jenkins picks the perfect time to walk her dog. The Russians leave abruptly and Mrs. Jenkins launches into her speech about how this is a quiet neighborhood and Meg should not be bringing such noisy friends around here.
Exhausted after having to watching Bennett’s body pulled from the weeds, repossessing the jeep with the mysterious case in the back, and having Mrs. Jenkins unwittingly save her from Russians with guns, Meg calls her sometimes boyfriend Kristof, who is Czech, and knows a lot about the Russian community and who is who in the area. Having been in this country only fifteen years Kristof still can’t understand how anyone can consider microwave popcorn and chicken-with-stars soup any kind of dinner, so after searching her cupboards and a lot of chopping he produces a fine and healthy meal.
Meg did not have the most stable of childhoods. While she was off at a slumber party with her friends, her mother shot her father in the head. He had been cheating and drinking and the jury found in her favor on grounds of self-defense. Meg’s father survived and her mother has been caring for this man, who was now like a baby, ever since. Meg rarely came by to see them but she remembers her father telling her, “There can be much worse things in life, than death.” Yet her father’s legacy continues to follow her and while connecting things about her father’s infidelity Meg suspects that a young woman, Tina Red Deer, who was arrested as a suspect in the Bennett murder, could quite possibly be her half-sister.
Jenny Siler has created an incredible mystery with unexpected twists and plot developments that had my head spinning and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. A small warning: there is some mature content.
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