Hallie Leland, a microbiologist at CDC and an experienced diver, spelunker and mountain climber is the obvious choice to replace a laboratory colleague who dies while doing important research at the South Pole. From the moment she steps off the transport plane onto the forbidding frozen continent Hallie realizes that survival is going to be a day to day battle. Since she’d arrived a day early there is no one to meet her, and she almost dies as she sets off across the ice toward distant lights. Luckily she is spotted and safely brought to the research facility, but her reception is no warmer than the sub-zero temperatures outside. The Polies, or the scientists and workers at the remote station, exhibit distant, trance-like behavior and many chose drugs and alcohol to combat the isolation and physical discomfort of their frozen prison. Within days of Hallie’s arrival, three woman die unexpectedly and the Polies suspect her, thinking she’s some kind of Jonah who’s brought a deadly virus from outside, so she is shunned. Assigned to the same quarters that her dead colleague occupied, she finds a hidden video camera that proves the researcher was murdered. Not knowing who she can trust, she keeps this information to herself as she prepares to dive beneath the frozen Antarctic in order to obtain bio samples needed to complete the research. Because communication with the outside world is completely shut off due to problems with weather and internet signals, Hallie can’t know that she is not alone in suspecting a sinister presence at the South Pole. Her black ops boyfriend and another government agent are pursuing information that points to terrorism on a global scale emanating from the South Pole research station. Hallie’s job literally becomes, “to save the world.”
While Hallie is resourceful and brave, Tabor strips her of almost all of her defenses, putting her in an environment that is not only physically, but emotionally hostile. His descriptions of the pain associated with exposure to extreme sub-zero temperatures and the associated distress caused by altitude change and oxygen deprivation are so realistic that I think a blood pressure cuff could document the effect on readers. I certainly felt myself gasping as I followed Hallie’s descent into the Antarctic waters. Part of this visceral reaction must be attributed to Paul Michael’s outstanding narration, too.
Frozen Solid can be enjoyed by a variety of readers. Outdoor adventure fans will appreciate the challenges survival in polar regions demands, while conspiracy theorists and armchair investigators will find the global search for clues and connections intriguing. Readers interested in personal relationships and group dynamics will enjoy observing Hallie as she tries to make sense of her personal and professional worlds. To say that Tabor’s second Hallie Leland adventure is bone-chilling is putting it mildly, perhaps making it the ultimate beach read for sweltering summer days.
Frozen Solid by James M. Tabor
Read by Paul Michael
Random House Books on Tape, unabridged: 9.5 hours on 8 CDs