Ice Cold: Tales of Intrigue from the Cold War
The events of the Cold War colored my childhood, and when my mother wasn’t reading historical novels, she was reading mysteries. She subscribed to Ellery Queen Magazine, and here I acquired a taste for short stories, so reviewing this anthology written by stars of the mystery genre seemed an easy task. It turned out not to be duck soup, however, and here’s why.
This anthology contains twenty stories, and many of them set in or about the strangled silence that existed in Communism’s front line: East Germany. Here we enter a shadow world of endless, multi-layered conspiracies, of people who are walking Matryoshka dolls – each shell outwardly different, but with a final emptiness inside. A short story is such a brief form, that, in many cases I could detect the awful, downward plot twist long before it arrived, and so the effect became not shocking or thrilling, but simply depressing. (After all, we still live in a world where imminent destruction hangs over our heads. Nothing much really has changed, except, perhaps, our awareness.) My favorites among the selections were those by Sara Paretsky, which is narrated by a child, and takes places in a 1960s infectious disease lab, and one by Jonathan Stone, a “pure” murder mystery, which centered around the demolition of the Berlin Wall. Linda Lippman’s “Everyday Housewife” not only had a nice twist, but was a historically vivid (read “suffocating”) evocation of an ordinary newlywed’s life. Outstanding others that relieved the formulaic gloom were by J. A. Jance, Katherine Neville, Gary Alexander, and Joseph Wallace. A mixed bag.