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The Blue Ice by Hammond Innes
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The Blue Ice (1948)

by Hammond Innes

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This book was originally published in 1948 with the story being set in the 1950s. So, today, it reads a bit like historical fiction with plenty of action and a little romance thread woven in. George Farnell, a mineralogist, disappeared 10 years ago. Now a lump of thorite and a poem in a whale meat shipment from Norway has turned up, along with news that a war hero’s body was discovered on the largest Norwegian glacier. Bill Gansert, another mineral expert, reluctantly heads to Norway to investigate the possibility of a rich thorite deposit. He’s joined by a sturdy ship crew, including his sidekick Dick Everard. Jill Summers joins the team at the last minute along with two questionable characters with murky pasts, Mr. Dahler and Mr. Jorgensen.

First, let’s address Mr. Dick Everard. I’m listening to this audiobook and every time they said his name, I had to giggle a little bit. The description of this book makes it sound like an action-packed suspense novel but then we have Everard. I wondered if the book was going to take a turn into a completely different genre, but it didn’t. No worries! This book truly is an adventure novel full of Norwegian ski escapades, whale meat, aliases, war stories, and sailing. Dick Everard truly is just a trusty sidekick and he has nothing to do with the minor romance in the novel.

Jill Summers turned out to be quite the gem in this book. At first, her being the only female character for 3/4 of the book, I expected her to be coddled by the men and placed in a minimal role as ‘love interest’. I was delightfully surprised when she had a significant role in the book. She grew up sailing, skiing, and speaking Norwegian so she gets to do everything the men do in this book. I found this awesome, especially since this was originally published in 1948.

There’s a bit of a mystery surrounding George Farnell, the mineralogist that disappeared so many years ago. Both Bill and Jill knew him and have their own ideas about his disappearance. Now a body matching his description, but under a different name, has turned up on a glacier. The thorite sample smuggled out of Norway adds a financial incentive, and this later leads to some steep competition for finding the source of that mineral sample.

The story starts off a little slow, but once Jill joins the group along with Mr. Dahler, who she knew when she was a child, things really pick up. Once the crew reaches Norway, there’s bits of Norwegian sprinkled throughout the story, which I really liked as it added to the ambiance. Perhaps it’s a bit of a taboo today, but I also found the tour of the whale factory to be interesting. It’s a suspenseful mystery that ends in a harrowing chase over a glacier. The story was so good I didn’t even mind the romance.

Narration: Jerry Farden did a really good job with this book. He never smirked when he had to say Dick Everard’s name. He did a decent job with the Norwegian accents and the bits of Norwegian. While there were few female characters, Farden’s female voices were believable. ( )
  DabOfDarkness | Jan 20, 2017 |
Boating enthusiasts, miners and fans of stories involving the aftermath of WW2 may find something to like in this 1950s thriller. The protagonist, Bill Gansert, is all set to sail his new yacht to the Mediterranean, but his boss at the mineral company sends him to Norway instead. Their old colleague George Farnell was hunting up mineral deposits and seemed to have found a profitable source of thorite -- but he was killed without revealing the exact location of the deposits. Gansert needs to find the thorite first before rival companies do and ensure that he and his crew don't meet the same fate as Farnell.

Overall this was a good thriller. It was like an Alistair MacLean but with a female character, Jill Somers, who could drive the boat and ski just as competently as the men, and they didn't make that much of a deal about it. For a 1950s thriller this seems remarkably progressive (bar the occasional asides about women not being able to understand the thrall that these mineral deposits could hold over a man). Also, there were no gratuitous sex scenes, much to my relief. In terms of setting, the atmosphere of Norway was brought to life effectively, especially in the use of Norwegian dialogue when the whaling ships were communicating with each other. It was presented in a way that enabled the reader to pick up on what they were saying even if the reader did not know Norwegian. I love when books set in other countries use the prevailing language!

I did find the twists and turns a bit wearisome to follow by the end, but there are worse thrillers out there. I am looking forward to reading more of Innes's work. ( )
1 vote rabbitprincess | May 11, 2016 |
The Blue Ice - Hammond Innes ****

Having just come back from Norway and a tour of the Glaciers I loved this adventure story from Hammond Innes.

The main character and narrator of the book is Bill Gansert. We find him at the beginning about to set sail for warmer climates aboard his own personal boat. He is convinced to alter his destination by his former employers and try and find out the location of where a rare mineral came from.

He soon is on the tail of the deceased mineralogist George Farnell. Accompanied by several characters, each with their own reasons for joining the group, he sets off for Fjords and Glaciers of Norway.

A well written mystery adventure with more than enough plot twists to keep the reader hanging on every word. If you are a fan of Alistair Maclean then you will love this. The only reason I knocked the rating down to a 4 is the love interest dragged slightly and got I the way of the main plot.

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  Bridgey | Sep 30, 2013 |
Another classic Innes thriller from the 1940s that hasn't really stood the test of time. The implausible and overcomplicated plot about rival mining companies and a sample of ore turned up by an eccentric prospector takes far too long to get going. Many of the characters are Norwegian whalers who have been imported wholesale from The white South. The ski-chase across the Norwegian mountains in the last part of the book is exciting, but it ends up in a ridiculous Hollywood stunt that might work on screen, but is just plain silly on the printed page. ( )
  thorold | Dec 27, 2010 |
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Ten years after George Farnell's disappearance, two lines of poetry and a lump of mineral ore are found. It's enough to send mineral expert Bill Gansert to Norway. But word of his findings has leaked out and Gansert finds himself caught in a maze of ambition and treachery.
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