Seattle’s nastiest storm in God only knows when is rolling into town as two fronts collide to create a snowpocalypse. Seattle’s nastiest gangster, Frank Mason, is a day away from going on trial, in what will be the case of the century. Three witnesses have come to town, former cohorts of the mob boss who have seen things, know things, or even know where the bodies are literally buried, ready to testify against their one-time boss…if they can make it to the stand. Two unpredictably dangerous forces collide with nightmarish results for one cop who must fight both nature and a barrage of duplicitous dealings and assassination attempts.
Mike Attebery’s Seattle on Ice, his third novel, is the second to feature 29 year old police officer/food connoisseur Brick Ransom, as the sharp jawed, green behind the ears do-gooder is thrust into a conspiracy far beyond his experience or expertise. Through Ransom’s eyes we see the Emerald City, his thoughts on crimes against his fellow Seattlite…or against fine cuisine.
With Seattle quite literally on ice, due to a mayor who refuses to salt the roads because of the harm it would cause the sea life, a simple job escorting witnesses to safe locations turns disastrous when an assassination attempt is made on the first procured canary. With Ransom’s piggish partner Loren Kamen in on the fix (until he’s double crossed and killed on duty), there’s no one to trust, aside from John Gridley, a longtime mentor and confidant. With Kamen’s phone giving clues to the identities and locations of the other witnesses, a race is on to protect and serve…especially since the second witness, one Hope Oliver, is quite the dish.
Seattle on Ice is a short, blazingly fast read, as the 216 pages fly by in a moment’s time. Even the introduction to the cast gets the pages turning in rapid succession, and the pace rarely slows down. The entire second act, which features a lengthy attempted escape from a trio of would-be hitmen, flows seamlessly forward at breakneck speeds, like an action movie on overdrive as dangerous predicament after dangerous predicament is spelled out in vivid detail. The only real breaks are when side stories start to get introduced, pulling away from Ransom to detail the thoughts and place of other important characters who have yet to make their mark in the story, the major players waiting in the wings, yet to play their part.
This novel has a great upside, with plenty of positive quirks and charms, though it does maintain some nagging issues that I couldn’t help but notice. The enjoyable, pulp-like read isn’t high art, nor is it a potty-mouthed tirade, as it flirts with both angles to present a character who’s hard to put your finger on, in terms of definition. Brick Ransom may think he’s a bit more suave than he actually is, though he is brought to vivid life due to his shortcomings, his craving for osso bucco to fill his snarling, empty gut, and his general lust for life. He comes across a little rash, stubborn, and antisocial, but these are traits that are just slightly explored in the novel, little accents that would flourish if given more time and proper expounding, as Ransom is at his most enjoyable when he’s being an antisocial, borderline demeaning prick.
Attebery paints a picture of Seattle that tells the story of the land…for those who haven’t been, and that’s both Seattle on Ice’s greatest weakness, yet one of its charms, as well. As the day progresses, Ransom quests to protect the three snitches, his journey taking him to a number of Seattle suburbs, hotspots, and points of geographical interest. The way the smaller, more mundane (aka transplantable) settings are described, the more you can visualize them as an outsider to the city; meanwhile, somewhat ironically, the more a landmark is detailed, the more vague it seems to become. It’s an odd coupling, but also worth noting is the way the story is more imaginable the more generic a location may be. The way a location, like the expansive glass and metal library, is fleshed out to the nth degree, the more foreign it becomes because we can’t quite imagine it without seeing it.
The plot to Seattle on Ice is fun, seemingly a commentary on society whenever bystanders are abound, yet ultimately a character study of Attebery’s hero-cast Ransom. The way it unfolds, it almost seems custom fit to the character’s strengths and weaknesses, which ultimately became what I’d consider my largest gripe of the book. Convenience runs just a little too high at times, from the way the foodie aspects seem to tie-in and converge in the final act, to the sometimes silly escapes Ransom makes in the non-stop second act that really deserves applause for its pacing and structure, which reminded me of the longshot in Children of Men, in regards to how it is unrelenting in pushing the action forward.
Seattle on Ice is a fine time-waster, a great companion piece for ten page reading at a time, though it does hit points where it’s hard to put the book down. I noticed pages flew by in record time in some segments, a testament that when it’s on point, this book works quite well. It has its moments, both good and bad, and works quite well for an early work in the rapidly growing Mike Attebery bibliography. Brick Ransom makes for a good everyday hero who’s sure to get more fleshing out and definition the more we see him, which we have to hope will be at least a few times more.