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The Elder Ice (Harry Stubbs #1)

Write on: Tue, 20 Nov 2018 by  in Guests Reviews Read 3629

In “The Elder Ice,” the first of the Harry Stubbs novellas, David Hambling delivers an excellent mystery framed in the ever-sinister Cthulhu Mythos. A good deal to enjoy in this 88-page read, and I reckon I’ll get on with it!


Harry Stubbs is a former boxer, a man not only physically intimidating but clever enough to know when to get out of the game and pursue alternative forms of employment. Working as a clerk in a soliciting firm, Stubbs is working on the case of a deceased polar explorer and famed adventurer, who might have left possessions of great worth behind. Little does Stubbs know, this is no normal investigation.

…To be fair, he figures out something stinks pretty early; Harry Stubbs is one of those protagonists I immediately took a liking to, chiefly because he has a distinct voice that oozes out through every page. The internal world of Stubbs is at odds with his appearance, which plays to surprise  

As for the fight scenes…I know very little about boxing, but if Hambling got something wrong, his descriptions certainly don’t give him away. On the contrary, the prose is at its best when Stubbs is swinging his fists and dodging those of his seen and unseen adversaries. The joy Harry takes in letting loose also speaks of his character – he is a civilized man on the edge of chaos, but not without a savage streak of his own.

"The Elder Ice" has a few other memorable characters, some of which are delightfully Lovecraftian mysteries of their own, while others are very typical main-stays of every good crime thriller; there’s the friendly gangster, pining after the days of old when everyone had manners and followed whatever code it is criminals operate on.

One aspect I felt wasn’t quite powerful enough was the build-up of suspense; while some moments gave me a whiff of that sweet Lovecraftian horror, I couldn’t help but feel this was a bit too late in the story and didn’t have enough time to blossom into something truly terrifying. I won’t hold that against “The Elder Ice,” since I see it more as a mystery than a horror story, but if you’re looking for blood-curdling suspense and surreal imagery, know that this first Stubbs novella goes in a different direction.

The dialogue was good for the most part; it was only now and then that some of the word choices of minor supporting characters pulled me out of the world; as for errors—typos and the like—I must’ve noticed no more than half a dozen. All in all, excellent editing on that front.

Personal Enjoyment 9/10

Dialogue: 7/10

Mystery:  10/10

Horror&Suspense:  7/10

Prose: 8/10

Using the arcane techniques of alchemy and necromancy, passed down from Magnus to Magnus from all the way back to that time a bloke’s wife ate an apple she oughtn’t to have, I managed to combine all these elements, and produced a Goodreads-worthy score!

This book receives 4.1/5; for the sake of Goodreads, the official here score is…Four out of Five stars!

Props for working in a reference to the Necronomicon there; Yeah, I appreciate it, you may relieve my cold, dead hands of this extra good-will!

Let me conclude by saying that in reading “The Elder Ice,” I’ve gained another of those First-Person detective types I so love reading about. There’s plenty you’ll enjoy if you’re familiar with Lovecraft’s mythos in terms of references, hidden little secrets, and so forth. The ending also delivers in delightfully familiar tropes from the Cthulhu mythos, though I will say no more for fear of spoiling it.

All in all, an excellent first outing for Stubbs – and how lucky am I to have three more novellas with him as lead! 

I was kindly provided a copy of The Elder Ice by the author, in return of an honest review, as part of the r/Fantasy TBRindr initiative.

Last modified on Friday, 23 November 2018 11:06
Filip Magnus

Filip picked up his first fantasy novel when he was seven and hasn’t stopped reading since. A critical reader who judges novels on their technical use of language and plot alike, he has a soft spot for literary fiction and tragic, heroic tales.

In his free time, Filip writes fiction, makes gaming reviews on YouTube, and maintains a personal blog. All that when he’s not too busy going through piles of books in as short a time as possible.