By david gilman
puffin books, Rs 295
There is this weird thing about Max Gordon. He is not just all that a 15-year-old guy would want to be; he’s more. Max is incredibly clever, wild, sporting, adventurous and ingenious. He goes to an extraordinary boarding school called Dartmoor High, which is shrouded in mystery and legends, and it allows its students to do a lot of exciting sports. He gets to lead a dangerous life, courting trouble even where none seems to exist, and often teeters tantalisingly on the edge of death. And as if that were not enough, he has a way with girls too. Really, he has a lot to thank his creator David Gilman for.
In his second encounter with evil (Ice Claw is the second in the author’s Danger Zone series), Max chances upon a Basque monk in the freezing wilderness off the ski village of Mont la Croix. The monk leaves a cryptic message for Max to decipher, before dying a painful death on the hauntingly beautiful but eerie snow slopes. A series of events leads to Max being wanted for murder. In trying to prove his innocence, he unearths certain ecological mysteries of global significance. What’s more, battle-weary Max also finds himself a girl who shares his concern for endangered species.
That’s about as much as you shall know about the story. Giving away more would spoil the fun for you. For Ice Claw is about 430 pages of adrenaline-pumping action, laid on thick and fast, into which the author cleverly throws in grave environmental issues. Passages on the beauty of nature — mountains, lakes and valleys abound in the book, their quietness often pregnant with mysteries of their own — are another of the book’s strengths.
Ice Claw is not just like any old adventure novel. It has some remarkable character sketches. There is the fake countess who peels potatoes and reads Tarot cards with equal ease, all the while living a life of great honour and wisdom. Then there is the dapper, megalomaniac villain Tishenko who has money and power both in good measure. There is also Max’s friend Sayid who is good with computers but is mortally afraid of the dangers that he seems to get thrown into, thanks to the company he keeps.
And above all, there is the young hero. In spite of all his brightness and love for adventure, he remains human. He has his moments of pure terror, is often unsure of himself the way you and I would be, and is invariably wanting in confidence when faced with attractive girls.