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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
Wichita's Slick and Slimy
The setting may be seedy, but in The Ice Harvest, the debut novel from Scott Phillips, the writing is top-notch all the way through.
It's Christmas Eve, 1979, but Charlie Arglist lives in a world where Christmas, family, and presents all take a back seat to the schemes of the people who inhabit the underbelly of Wichita, Kansas. Tonight, however, if everything goes according to plan, Charlie's getting out of Wichita a rich man.
Charlie is an attorney, but he's the kind of lawyer who spends much less time in the courtroom than he does paying off cops and holding compromising photos of politicians over their heads. His business associates own strip clubs, and his friends, if you can call them that, are the people he knows from the bars he frequents. When he bumps into his ex-brother-in-law, who is so drunk that he needs a ride home to the Christmas celebration being given by Charlie's former parents-in-law, Charlie realizes he can't even remember the last time he saw his kids and wonders if he should even bother saying good-bye to them before he skips town.
As Charlie moves through Wichita, trying to kill time before 2am, when he meets with Vic to finalize their quick getaway, planned for Christmas morning, it becomes clear that as vile as Charlie is, he's probably the most decent person he knows. Everybody he knows will gladly lie, cheat, and steal to get anything, preying on any weakness to take full advantage of people. Charlie is no saint, but his planned ticket out of town doesn't include hurting innocent people or murder. At least, that's not what he has planned. But as events spin out of his control, Charlie has to do whatever it takes to stay alive until Christmas morning.
It is a testament to Scott Phillips's writing and humorous irony that he has created a reprehensible protagonist you can't help but root for. The other characters who orbit Charlie range from worse to worst and definitely deserve whatever they get, but Phillips makes it fun to watch these people in action -- even if their actions are pretty odious. Phillips's easy style makes The Ice Harvest a quick and enjoyable read, but there are enough plot twists that the reader never has the upper hand. This sleazy, sexy novel is like a decadent sin -- the worse these characters behave, the more fun it is.