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Chilly, with a bitter aftertaste

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Jul 23, 2009: I didn’t like this story, but it’s not the fault of the writing. The writing, in fact, is of a very high calibre: sophisticated, rich, intelligently researched, effectively surreal – and full of horror. And cold.

It starts off relatively innocently, the elegantly designed website seducing the hapless reader. Even if you don’t decide to read the story, you must take a look at this website – it’s gorgeous. An old lady lies in bed, being interviewed by an academic doing research on early 20th century Spiritualism. She was reputed to be a medium of great talent and popular acclaim in her youth. Her initial story reminds me of Maggie Fox (if you don’t believe it realistic that a young child could or would convince her parents and other adults that she had paranormal powers, check out the real life fantastical romance that was the life of the Fox sisters.)

The old lady admits making things up, but also recounts eerie experiences that she believes really happened to her; but she’s no longer sure which is which, and so of course the reader doesn’t get to know either. Her father mysteriously disappears and reappears years later with only the most bizarre explanation, and it’s never entirely clear what really happened to him. It’s frustrating, and mysterious – but this is a mystery that gets nastier the deeper we get into it. Terrible crimes are committed on and by small children, alive and dead. And the ice cream, which I thought was going to be the light relief, well, let’s put it this way, it’s not. The ice cream turns out the worst of all! Sometimes it seems just random eeriness: I gave up understanding much of Charlotte’s theosophical babblings under trance, but (for example) at one time she goes on about little invisible men that apparantly follow people and may kill you just for fun without intending any malice – yet we never hear anything more about the little men. And it’s all so cold and distant – I cringe at the horrible things that befall them, but feel little empathy for any of the characters.

It’s not that it’s bump in the night terrifying, it’s more that it leaves your head swirling in disturbed confusion, and your heart a little chilled. If you like intelligent, complex stories of paranormal horror and disturbed psyches, you might want to take on Ice Cream Memories. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This was a hard one for me to rate; how do you describe the quality of homemade radish ice cream mixed with blood?

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