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For all that it involves organized crime, naked women, grumpy bouncers, a serious snowstorm, and a hero with a profound drinking pattern, The Ice Harvest is a quiet little book--noir-ish, certainly, but never to excess. As the novel traces Charlie Arglist's trail around his small Kansas hometown on Christmas Eve, 1979, the lawyer's literal footprints are clear enough, given the whopper of a blizzard that's descended, but his metaphorical path is far less obvious. He's killing time before leaving town, but where is he going? And why?
Scott Phillips' sketch of a crooked lawyer on the lam is amusingly ironic: though there's violence aplenty in the novel--including a morbidly comic finger-breaking scene starring Spencer, a philosophical bouncer at the Sweet Cage, one of the strip clubs Charlie oversees for Bill Gerard--this is Waiting for Godot rather than Goodfellas. Phillips masterfully sets up the reader's expectations for action and adventure, dropping cryptic hints about Charlie's past, present, and future, then gleefully keeps Charlie in a holding pattern, circling from one strip club to another, from bars to massage parlors to his former in-laws' house.
But when the world isn't scripted by Beckett, all waiting games must come to an end. Charlie's gamble--it would be cheating to tell you more than that it involves a little cocaine, a beautiful woman of indeterminate origin, a Christmas package full of cash, and an embarrassing photograph--pays off, and he heads out of town. How far does he get? Well, that's another story--and another opportunity for Phillips to show off the mordant humor that may brand him as the Cohen brothers' literary heir apparent. In his hands, Kansas doesn't seem far at all from Fargo. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Everywhere you look, trashy people are doing trashy things in this darkly delicious debut comic thriller. Set in the middle of a Christmas Eve blizzard in 1979 Wichita, the novel opens with lawyer-turned-petty-mobster Charlie Arglist marking time before an important meeting with his shady partner, Vic Cavanaugh. After this meeting he plans to leave Wichita hurriedly with a load of cash and, presumably, the enmity of its rightful owner, Bill Gerard, the local head of a larger regional crime syndicate. Charlie and Vic run a string of strip bars around Wichita for Gerard, from which they have been skimming cash on the sly. But Charlie, who sets out to visit all the outposts in his "empire" one last time, lets a drunken spirit of Yuletide sentimentality (or maybe spite) trigger an unprecedented (and therefore highly visible) string of improvisations. He comps some of his dancers' shakedown money, causing a riot at a club; he unwisely lets his would-be girlfriend in on one of Gerard's blackmail scams. Then he and his ex-brother-in-law crash the Christmas gathering of their cumulative ex-family, setting off a whole new string of disasters. For Charlie there is only the imminent future of his escape with Gerard's money, and it isn't until he discovers a fresh corpse buried behind Vic's empty house that he realizes that his future isn't what it used to be. Newcomer Phillips's seedy characters are skillfully developed, particularly the semiremorseful Charlie. The frigid Midwestern setting is the perfect frame for Charlie's wretched situation; the time period emphasizes the low-level viciousness of Charlie's contemporaries, and Phillips wastes no time in piling up the bodies. Charlie's final confrontation with Gerard will likely leave readers nauseated with laughterAaltogether not a bad way to debut in crime fiction. Agent, Nicole Aragi at Watkins-Loomis. Rights sold in the U.K., Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top Customer Reviews
I highly recommend ICE HARVEST. With so many mediocre talents like Patterson, Ludlum, etc. who appear on the bestsellers lists, it would be nice to see ICE HARVEST get its just do.
This gritty tale of crime is full of twists and turns and surprises. The book has everything you'd dream of finding in a crime novel; sex, drugs, alcohol, violence and, of course, lots and lots of money. Here, we have an attorney, Charlie, who's spending his last night in the city. Christmas eve, during one heck of a freezing rain/snowstorm (and you can imagine the many great gags that emerge out of this situation).
Charlie works for people with lots of money, who own lots of bars and strip joints all across town. But Charlie has a secret. He's stolen a great deal of money from his bosses, and now he wants to leave his life behind and take the money with him. Of course, many people do not want to see him succeed and will try to stop him at all cost.
The Ice Harvest has a very simple plot. And yet, you can't help yourself, you just want to keep on turning the pages. I loved the characters in this book, especially Charlie, who's your anti-hero par excellence. There is as much to hate as there is to love in him. His choices are often amoral and yet, you also feel sympathy for him in the strangests of times.
The book is full of very colorful characters who all end up serving purpose to the plot. Phillips is a born storyteller; from the very first page, he takes you by the hand to bring you along a very wild and very fun ride. He knows when to end a storyline and starts a new one, when to end a joke before it gets old, or when to make a character disappear because he or she simply isn't needed anymore.Read more ›
This novel, in other words, is steeped in the noir tradition, and it both takes from that tradition and adds to it in interesting ways. It is frequently disturbing, but often quite funny. I found most the characters implausible (maybe I am naïve, but I just found it hard to believe that so many immoral people could lead seemingly ordinary lives), but they were believable in the context of the story, so that isn't too much of a problem. In fact, I found their amorality entertaining.
My only real problem with this book has to do with its narrative structure. The idea of the story taking place over the course of a single night is fine, but it needed more flashbacks or other sorts of distractions.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Charlie is so relaxed, taking time to stop off to look for a drink. He seems to sleep walk through his life with caual ease, whilst carrying out such dark deeds. Read morePublished on April 14 2003 by Goodbye
"The Ice Harvest" by Scott Phillips is an interesting first novel.
It is light entertainment...a noirish dark mystery/comedy. Read more
I don't think this is the place she would have expected to get back to by clicking her heels three times. Lots of sex (which nobody seems to be enjoying very much} and violence. Read morePublished on July 3 2002 by D. P. Birkett
As a mystery author with my first novel in current release, I was quite pleased when THE ICE HARVEST earned its recent Edgar nomination as Best First Novel. Read morePublished on July 18 2001 by Kent Braithwaite
Ice Harvest was a refreshingly simplistic read. A lawyer on the lamb killing time before leaving his past behind bumbles into more tangled webs than a broom being waved in a 100... Read morePublished on July 4 2001 by Bridget Hockney
In a year that saw some of the brightest new voices in noir fiction, Scott Phillips shines brightest. Read morePublished on June 5 2001
The main character (Charlie Arglist) is amazing emotionless as he carries out many first times acts of violence and deceit. Read morePublished on Feb. 28 2001
James Crumley, author of The Last Good Kiss, gives it a rousing endorsement and I can see why.
The whole book takes place on Christmas Eve that year. Read more
I have to love a writer who can tell a great story in under 300 pages. And make no mistake, this is a great story. Read morePublished on Jan. 10 2001 by Amazon Customer
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