Sunday, February 19, 2012
Ice Elation - Susanna Gregory
Theme for the Week: Murder in the Most Unlikely Places
Name of the story: Ice Elation
Author: Susanna Gregory
Source: The Mammoth Book of Locked-Room Mysteries and Impossible Crimes
Story Number: 50
This story is set in a Russian research station called Vostok situated at the Pole of Inaccessibility, the point on the Antarctic Continent that is farthest from the coast in all directions. The author provides her own background to the story - a startling discovering being made in 1995 that a huge body of water has been sealed between ice and the rock for more than half a million years; scientists have been at a dilemma whether to drill the ice surface and contaminate the unique environment or to leave the pristine sterile water as it is. The story kicks off in 1999 when the decision has been made to continue drilling and the eight scientists stationed at Vostok are on the verge of completing the drill and reaching the body of water.
The research station is made up a collection of buildings: scientists' sleeping quarters, kitchen, two labs - one for examining the ice samples that the drill produced, the other filled with meteorological equipment and finally the drill-house. Each scientist is given the task of drilling the ice on a particular day of the week. With just two days to go before they reach the water, when Tanya is supposed to be drilling, the scientists note that the drilling has stopped for some time. When they go out to investigate, they find the drill-house locked from inside. When they break open the door, they find it empty with no sign of Tanya. They search all the buildings, they go on top of the roof of the tallest building from where they can see for around 30 miles but they don't see any sign of Tanya. And from there it's a 'And Then There Were None' story line - each of the scientists go to the drill-house at some time or the other to investigate and they don't return. Each time a search is made but no corpse is found. Finally it just gets down to two - the leader of the group and one lady - where the leader figures out who is responsible, how they disappeared and where the bodies were hidden so as to escape the search party each time!