Dry Ice
Stephen White
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Buy *Dry Ice* by Stephen White online

Dry Ice
Stephen White
528 pages
March 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Dry Ice by Stephen White is his latest thinking man’s thriller to feature Dr. Alan Gregory and his nemesis and former patient, Michael McClelland. McClelland has escaped from a mental institution and is out to wreak vengeance on those he believes to be responsible for putting him there. This time, he is not working alone; he and his accomplices have learned the deepest, darkest secrets of the people whom he considers to have ruined his life, and they are using those secrets against his enemies in cunning and devious ways to destroy them. Secrets and the lengths people go to protect them from being revealed are a major theme of Dry Ice. It’s a book that’ll keep you reading late into the night, an uncommon thriller of psychological terrorism sure to please Stephen White’s many fans and garner him many more.

Dr. Alan Gregory, as a clinical psychologist, is in the business of listening to and keeping secrets. He has his share of them, himself, as do all of the main characters in Dry Ice, such as his wife, Lauren; his best friend, Sheriff Sam Purdy; and his former patient and current lawyer, Kirsten Lord. A secret from his past haunts has haunted him for years and tracked him like wolves:

When I was feeling especially drained my secrets were not just a looming cloud, but they chased me like a pack of wolves that smelled fatiguing prey. I was feeling weary a lot. I often smelled the stink of wolf.
Two big problems plague the good doctor: his marriage has hit an inclement period, and McClelland, who used to be a meteorologist, has seeded the clouds to create storms in the lives of those he feels have destroyed his life. These problems overlap in Dry Ice as the plans McClelland puts into play to frame Alan for malpractice and murder directly cause a conflict of interest with a grand jury case that Lauren, a DA, is working on. Also, Lauren’s MS is exhibiting new symptoms and adding to the stress in their marriage, and Alan has taken to drinking vodka at night when Lauren has gone to bed to try to cope with the situation. The grand jury case involves a cop who was seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver and a missing witness whose purse turns up in the yard of the house where Gregory practices.

The manipulative Michael McClelland is has little trouble convincing others to help him, like Kol Cruz, one of Gregory’s newest patients, who claims to suffer from nosebleeds and shows up in Alan’s waiting room covered with blood before an appointment. When the blood proves not to have come from a nosebleed and a drop of it is picked up on Alan’s shoe when he cleans up the mess, Alan finds himself falling deeper into McClelland’s trap without yet even realizing it. Then, Sam tells Alan the news that somehow McClelland escaped when he and other patients at the institution were getting brain scans:

“Somebody took off his metal restraints so he could get scanned. Somebody else was supposed to put on some plastic restraints, which apparently didn’t happen. At some point one of the guards counts his nutsos and he realizes that he’s short exactly one nutso. Michael McClelland was the missing one.”
Dry Ice keeps building suspense as Alan tries to put together the pieces of the puzzle and discover both how McClelland is framing him and trying to destroy the careers of himself, Purdy, and his wife, and how to put an end to his plans. Stephen White has a way of turning a phrase that places him among the best of today’s thriller writers.

One murder isn’t enough. When Alan gets suspicious after spotting McClelland’s calling card, a bandanna, tied to the door of his vacationing neighbor’s barn and lets himself in the back door to find a body hanging from the rafters, he learns McClelland also wants to frame him for this crime. On the surface, it seems to be a suicide - but the rafters are, as Purdy points out, over eighteen feet high, and the nearest ladder is nowhere near the dead person. Someone has been camping there, as well:

Michael McClelland had been sleeping two dozen steps from my front door. From my sleeping wife. From my playing daughter.
But how to prove that he wasn’t involved? As his lawyer tells him about the cops: “Like it or not, Alan, you’re on their radar. Currently, the brightest green blip.” Fans of Stephen White’s previous books will also love Dry Ice, and it’s sure to win him many more fans. The title itself involves secrets and how we each deal with traumatic events that occur in our lives. Highly recommended to anyone who likes edge-of-your-seat thrillers.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Douglas R. Cobb, 2007

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